Educational Measurements and Objectives

A Taxonomy of Problem-Solving Activities and Its Implications for Teaching

Helen L. Plants, Russel K. Dean, John T. Sears, and Wallace S. Venable

(Chapter 3 in Lubkin, James L., Ed., The Teaching of Elementary Problem Solving in Engineering and Related Fields, American Society for Engineering Education, Washington, D.C., 1980)

Solving a problem is an activity which can consume days, months, or years, or can take place in a matter of seconds. It can subsume many behaviors or very few. It can be extremely complex or very simple. Consequently, it is almost impossible to talk or even to think about it as a whole. Discussion of problem-solving tends to degenerate to a discussion of one phase of problem-solving or even of solving a particular class of problems. Thus, general statements about problem-solving are often made which would be better addressed to a particular part of problem-solving. The development and use of a taxonomy of problem-solving activities can help with these problems. By breaking problem-solving into its component activities it makes it possible to consider each activity separately without the mental haze which results from trying to think about too many related activities at one time. It enables the thinker to examine a problem-solving system for the presence or absence of appropriate activities and to take corrective measures. Last, it allows the thinker to describe more accurately the problem-solving process and thus communicate it to another.

"Teaching Problem-Solving Skills: Theory or Practice First?"

Helen L. Plants and Wallace S. Venable

Engineering Education, March 1970

This article describes a controlled experiment at West Virginia University which sought to determine whether it is better to present a demonstration before discussion of the theory involved or to present discussion before the demonstration. This involved the control of the content of instruction throughout a complete semester course in dynamics, varying the sequence of the theoretical and practical portions of the course. The DF group was essentially taught to look first at a problem, then at the information necessary to solve it. The TF group was taught to look first at an item of information, then at its possible applications. The greater development of engineering skills was produced by an appropriate management of instruction: the presentation of demonstrations before pertinent theory. Both teachers preferred teaching the Theory-First class, and this class had more positive feelings about both teachers. The more comfortable class was the less competent class.

"Programmed Instruction: Key To Engineering Education For Tomorrow"

Charles E. Wales, Assistant Professor Of Chemical Engineering, Purdue University

Engineering Education, February 1967

This paper describes a very early effiort in developing programmed instruction for an engineering thermodynamics course. Objectives, frames, and cases for classroom discussion on the Ideal Gas Law are included.

"An Expert Opinion"

Helen L. Plants

ERM Magazine , v.4 n.1 - October 1971

One measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions -

"Departmental Final Exams - A Tool for Quality Assurance"

Wallace S. Venable

1993 Frontiers in Education Conference

At West Virginia University we have been using a Departmental Final Examination (DFE) as a tool in Instructional Quality Assurance for over thirty years. This began as a check on Helen Plants' experiments with Programmed Instruction, when it was felt that PI should not be used unless it was "as good as lectures." As other ASEE and FIE papers have shown, it was. We found that the DFE's provided valuable feedback on instruction in several other ways.

Assessing Problem-Solving Skills With Cognitive Objective List-Assisted Report Scoring

Wallace Venable, John T. Sears

1976 Frontiers In Education Conference

This paper describes an attempt at assessing student development in analysis, synthesis and evaluation. A score sheet was developed which lists a large number of specific features which reports may include. The scoring system developed is based on the Taxonomy of Objectifies - Cognitive Domain and on several systems of recording behavior developed by Amidon and Flanders for classroom observation. Each category has from three to ten items in the check list. This makes it possible to establish a separate numerical score for each of the categories. There are forty items in all. The COLARS form has been used to study a sample of reports by freshmen, sophomores, seniors, and graduate students in Chemical Engineering at West Virginia. A positive correlation between group rank and average score is observed for all categories.

"Are Students Really Working Less?"

Wallace S. Venable

1987 Frontiers In Education Conference Proceedings

Fifteen sections of engineering mechanics courses were studied to see if there were identifiable differences in student study behavior between the 1986-87 school year and the period between 1979 and 1981. This year's students in Statics had significantly more late work. Several other differences examined were not significant.

"Developing Objectives for a Design Course"

Wallace Venable

1984 Frontiers In Education Conference Proceedings

Many of the objectives of design instruction are primarily in the "affective," or attitudinal, domain. This article is an attempt to put on paper the objectives which the author has identified for his version of "Introduction to Mechanical Engineering Design." It outlines objectives in areas such as "recognizing," "giving voluntary responses," "accepting values," and "organizing value systems."

Objectives for Introduction to Statics

Appendix I from Introduction To Statics - Teacher's Guide

Helen L. Plants and Wallace S. Venable

West Publishing Company, St. Paul, 1975

An extensive list of cognitive objectives for a semester length course in statics.

Educational Systems Design

Charles E. Wales, Engineering Education, March 1969

This paper includes a set of content­performance objectives prepared for the ideal gas law.