Framing Students' Learning Problems of Thermodynamics

Nihad Dukhan
2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings   unpublished
Firm understanding of thermodynamics by graduating engineers is critical for addressing key current and future global issues, e.g. the looming energy crisis, pollution and global warming. Forms of alternative energy, and the efficiency of their conversion processes, are all governed by the laws of thermodynamics. Despite this immense importance, engineering students has been having difficulties in building good knowledge of thermodynamics, and in applying this knowledge in problem solving and
more » ... ermal design. Through a careful reading of the pertinent literature, this paper explains the difficulties students have and provides classifications of the difficulties in order to better understand them. The difficulties are grouped under major headings in order to give an easy-to-see view of them. A thorough understanding of these difficulties, and their root causes, is vital for any instructional design aimed at mitigating these problems, and for enabling better learning of thermodynamics. The paper also summarizes the techniques that have been tried to solve these problems and the degree of success achieved. Generally speaking, there are two major classes of thermodynamic learning problems. First, students do not properly learn thermodynamic concepts and principles; second, students do not seem to recognize relevant concepts and principles, and combine them in order to solve thermodynamic problems. This paper argues that in order to design an edifying approach to improve students' learning of thermodynamics, the root causes must be addressed.
doi:10.18260/p.26955 fatcat:u65qwasyyvhl5pxmlbtdq4sid4