How Model Can Help Inquiry—A Qualitative Study of Model Based Inquiry Learning (Mobile) in Engineering Education

Yu Gong, Purdue University


This study investigates how students can use “interactive example models” in inquiry activities to develop their conceptual knowledge about an engineering phenomenon like electromagnetic fields and waves. An interactive model, for example a computational model, could be used to develop and teach principles of dynamic complex systems, and to promote students’ conceptual understanding on abstract engineering concepts like the propagation behavior of electromagnetic waves. Because of the interactive and interpretive capabilities in helping students understand underlying conceptions, a computational model has been widely accepted as effective teaching and learning approaches in engineering education. To effectively integrate interactive computational model into students’ engineering inquiry learning, in this dissertation, a MOdel Based Inquiry LEarning (MOBILE) approach is proposed as a model of an effective learning environment for engineering and physics education for undergraduates. The implementations of MOBILE into an upper level electrical engineering classroom for the study of electromagnetic (EM) wave propagation will be discussed. The proposed approach includes two main learning stages. First, students will learn with an interactive MATLAB model, which provides an interactive example model (IEM) to guide students’ knowledge construction. In the second learning stage, the interactive example will support students’ inquiry learning through model based reasoning on complex engineering phenomenon. In this study, an interpretive research framework will be used to design the research protocol and describe the learning patterns in undergraduate engineering students’ MOBILE experiences. Especially, I will focus on how students learn with an IEM, and how the IEM supports students’ inquiry learning on the phenomenon of EM wave propagation. A discussion will be presented on students’ learning activities using MOBILE. This research will suggest an effective pedagogical framework for engineering education based on students’ model based inquiry learning variations inherent. The research results of description themes will inform the design of inquiry learning experiences for engineering students to learn complex, abstract engineering concepts.




Rebello, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Engineering|Educational technology|Science education

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