This research documented the glance patterns and conceptual understanding of practicing engineers attempting to solve conceptual exercises with different contexts. Two mechanisms for data collection -- eye-tracking and reflective clinical interviews -- were employed to more holistically understand practicing engineers’ interaction and reasoning while solving transportation and hydraulic design problems.
Data collection involved the use of three carefully developed questions in both transportation (with 3 contextual representations) and hydraulic design (with 4 contextual representations). The process required each participant to sit in front of a computer monitor that displays the problem statement and four contexts on a single slide. The participant was required to wear the eye tracking equipment while they solved the problems and their eye movements and focus patterns were collected. During the experiment, the participants completely solve each of the presented problems. If necessary, the participants were allowed to ask clarifying questions. Once the participants completed all three problems, the eye tracking equipment was removed and the post retrospective interview was conducted and audio recorded. Each of the participants was asked the same series of questions that focus on the problem-solving process.
In total 52 practicing (28 hydraulics engineering students and 24 transportation engineering students) participated as subjects in the data collection efforts. This is in addition to the 52 practicing engineers who previously participated in data collection. Based on our current literature review, this is the largest eye-tracking / reflective interview study of problem solving that has been conducted to date.
The interview and visual attention data was used to document seven (comprehensive, experimental effect, familiarity, judgement, simplicity, speed, and stepwise) problem solving rationales in response to the transportation engineering questions and four (speed, familiarity, accuracy, and simplicity) problem solving rationales in response to the hydraulics engineering questions.
Masoud Ghodrat Abadi is an assistant professor in Civil Engineering at California State University, Sacramento. He received his PhD in 2018 from Oregon State University. He is a member of standing committee on Education and Training in Transportation Research Board (TRB).
Sean Gestson graduated from the University of Portland (UP) in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and received his M.S. and Ph.D. in civil engineering with a research emphasis in engineering education from Oregon State University (OSU). During his time at OSU, Sean taught multiple undergraduate engineering courses including, geotechnical engineering, highway design, surveying, and senior capstone design. His engineering education research aims to understand more about the gap in student preparedness for the engineering workplace. He has worked closely with engineering practitioners, faculty, and students to understand more about their problem-solving behavior, beliefs around engineering knowledge, and learning more about what it means to be an engineer. Sean enjoys being active outdoors with his family and friends while climbing, mountain biking, and camping.
Shane Brown is an associate professor and Associate School Head in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University. His research interests include conceptual change and situated cognition. He received the NSF CAREER award in
Dr. David Hurwitz is an Associate Professor of Transportation Engineering in the School of Civil and Construction Engineering at Oregon State University and is the Director of the OSU Driving and Bicycling Simulator Laboratory. Dr. Hurwitz conducts research in transportation engineering , in the areas of traffic operations and safety, and in engineering education, in the areas of conceptual assessment and curriculum adoption.
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