Publication Date


Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Title

ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings






Engineers must understand how to build, apply, and adapt various types of models in order to be successful. Throughout undergraduate engineering education, modeling is fundamental for many core concepts, though it is rarely explicitly taught. There are many benefits to explicitly teaching modeling, particularly in the first years of an engineering program. The research questions that drove this study are: (1) How do students' solutions to a complex, open-ended problem (both written and coded solutions) develop over the course of multiple submissions? and (2) How do these developments compare across groups of students that did and did not participate in a course centered around modeling?. Students' solutions to an open-ended problem across multiple sections of an introductory programming course were explored. These sections were all divided across two groups: (1) experimental group - these sections discussed and utilized mathematical and computational models explicitly throughout the course, and (2) comparison group - these sections focused on developing algorithms and writing code with a more traditional approach. All sections required students to complete a common open-ended problem that consisted of two versions of the problem (the first version with smaller data set and the other a larger data set). Each version had two submissions - (1) a mathematical model or algorithm (i.e. students' written solution potentially with tables and figures) and (2) a computational model or program (i.e. students' MATLAB code). The students' solutions were graded by student graders after completing two required training sessions that consisted of assessing multiple sample student solutions using the rubrics to ensure consistency across grading. The resulting assessments of students' works based on the rubrics were analyzed to identify patterns students' submissions and comparisons across sections. The results identified differences existing in the mathematical and computational model development between students from the experimental and comparison groups. The students in the experimental group were able to better address the complexity of the problem. Most groups demonstrated similar levels and types of change across the submissions for the other dimensions related to the purpose of model components, addressing the users' anticipated needs, and communicating their solutions. These findings help inform other researchers and instructors how to help students develop mathematical and computational modeling skills, especially in a programming course. This work is part of a larger NSF study about the impact of varying levels of modeling interventions related to different types of models on students' awareness of different types of models and their applications, as well as their ability to apply and develop different types of models.

Funding Number


Funding Sponsor

National Science Foundation


© 2020 American Society for Engineering Education


General Engineering