F10-C2-2 - Developing reasoning competence in a short Introductory Engineering Physics Course

1. Innovative Practice Full Paper
Luis Neri1 , Victor Robledo-Rella1, Julieta Noguez1, Andres Gonzalez-Nucamendi1, Rosa Maria Garcia-Castelan1
1 Tecnologico de Monterrey

During the 2019 Fall term, Tec de Monterrey started the implementation of its new educational model “TEC21”, in all its undergraduate programs. In this innovative model, the whole curriculum is based on challenges rather than subjects, in order to offer students an experiential learning while working with realistic scenarios. As the students go to higher semesters, the challenges are more related to lifelike problematics. In this way, the emphasis is given to the development of student competencies and skills when they search and look for a valid solution to “real-life situations”, in contrast to traditional lecture-based programs where technical contents are usually organized in theoretical subjects, often unrelated to practical problems. In this work we present and comment on the implementation of a scenario posed to freshman engineering students taking a first Introductory Physics short course, called a “Block”, related to Kepler’s Laws for planetary motion. The specific competence under study was to structure a coherent explanation of a Physics scenario based on concepts, theories and principles of natural sciences and mathematics. In order to evaluate the student achievement of this competence, an exam was applied at the end of the Block including both standard end-of-course problems and questions that required an argumentative answer. The latter were aimed to assess the reasoning followed by students when prompted to analyze a different situation from an initial standard context. Working with a sample of N = 200 students, it was found that the students got grades about 25% smaller in the reasoning questions as compared to the more traditional problem-solving questions. This can be in part due to the fact that most students are only beginning to develop such competencies as understanding and applying the use of basic physical concepts and laws in a specific scenario.  These results suggest the need to design learning strategies to reinforce the students´ reasoning processes. Students’ perceptions, on the other hand, indicate that they recognized this innovative challenge-based approach more engaging and motivating, although the implementation process still has to be improved in order to adjust the work activities aimed to achieve the main objectives of the model.