Do engineering students from vocational and academic backgrounds think differently?

Abstract

This work describes an experimental study to try to better understand the natural and previously evolved problem solving strategies used by entrants to undergraduate engineering programmes. New entrants to degree and pre-degree programmes were presented with a range of brain-teaser and practical problems requiring no specific prior knowledge to answer. Some would have unique answers with others being more open ended. Students worked in pairs to solve the problems and their discussions, notes and where relevant physical interactions with props were recorded and observed. The results were then coded and conclusions drawn based on both general approaches and whether particular types of student educational backgrounds influenced their approaches to problem solving.

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