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Using structured examples and prompting reflective questions to correct misconceptions about thermodynamic concepts

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This paper explores the effectiveness of using ‘structured examples in concert with prompting reflective questions’ to address misconceptions held by mechanical engineering students about thermodynamic principles by employing pre-test and post-test design, a structured questionnaire, lecture room observation, and participants’ interviews. Students’ misconceptions were identified through pre-tests that evaluated students’ understanding of the chosen concepts, while conceptual change was assessed in pre-test–post-test design that revealed students’ ability to apply the concepts and transfer skills from a worked example to satisfactorily undertake a fairly complex similar problem. The use of worked examples in concert with prompting reflective questions is effective for inducing correct conceptual change and effective problem-solving skills. However, it is recommended that engineering tutors should incorporate inquiry-based learning approach and computer simulations alongside the use of worked examples with prompting reflective questions in order to enhance students’ conceptual understanding of thermodynamic concepts.
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Keywords: conceptual understanding; heat transfer; misconceptions; reflective questions; thermal systems; worked examples

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Mechanical Engineering Science, University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg, 2006, South Africa

Publication date: 04 March 2014

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