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The Learning Cycle. Applications of Cognitive Science to Engineering Education And the Manufacturing Learning Module. Purpose of Presentation. Present information on the research basis for Learning Cycle Approaches How the Engineering Learning Cycle was developed

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The Learning Cycle

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The Learning Cycle

Applications of Cognitive Science to Engineering Education

And the

Manufacturing Learning


Purpose of Presentation

  • Present information on the research basis for Learning Cycle Approaches

  • How the Engineering Learning Cycle was developed

  • Experience of using the Learning Cycle for engineering and technology

Part of the Problem

  • “As more and more information is generated, specialists and technicians find that the information they possess becomes more quickly out dated.” (Brown, A., 1995, p.2)

The Coach-Student Model

  • …A college’s purpose is not to transfer knowledge but to create environments and experiences that bring students to discover and construct knowledge themselves…” (Barr and Tagg, 1995, p. 15)

  • Move from Lecturer - Student to Coach - Student Model

  • Sage-on-the-stage to Guide-on-the side

  • “You cannot teach anybody anything. All you can do as a teacher is to make it easier for your students to learn.” (Redish, 1994, p. 798)

  • “…the cognitive view requires a stimulating learning environment in which students are active participants in planning, implementing, and evaluating teaching and learning.” (Johnson and Thomas, 1994, p. 39-40)

1. Reduce memory load.

2. Activate existing knowledge structures.

3. Representation of new knowledge techniques.

4. Encourage “deep thinking”.

5. Enhance cognitive control processes.

6. Support the use and transfer of knowledge and skills.

Strategies for Application of Cognitive Studies to Curriculum Design

(Johnson and Thomas, 1994)

Constructivist Approach

  • The student must build their own mental model

  • Telling will not change a student’s model

  • Need well developed basic concepts

Principles of Cognitive Studies

  • 1. Organize into mental models

  • 2. It is easy to learn what matches our mental model

  • 3. It is hard to change our existing model

  • 4. Every student has a different model for the same information(Redish, 1994)

Touchstone Problem

  • An important strategy is the touchstone problem. This is a problem so well understood it becomes part of the students mental which they can return

Basic Features of Adult Education

  • 1. Related to work

  • 2. Includes prior training

  • 3. Immediate feedback through hands-on activities(Knowles, 1984)

Adult Studies

  • 1. Job related

  • 2. Best if done On-the-job

  • 3. Must have easy to use interface

  • 4. Must feel in control of pace and content(Shaw, 1992)

Don’t Re-invent the Wheel!

The science community has used learning cycles for many years.

Two major projects:

Compass - from Illinois Central College

Introductory College Physics for the 21st Century - Seminole Community College, FL

The Physics Learning Cycle


Goals of the Manufacturing Learning Modules

Move from Concrete to Formal Piaget Levels of Learning




Critical Parts of Learning Cycle

  • Exploration - new concepts should be introduced with minimum explanation and allow students to “construct” basic concepts

  • Dialog - present theory, standard terminology, and ideas in relation to what students have done in the exploration. The dialog can extend the basic concepts to the more complex leading to either an application or another exploration.

Critical Parts of Learning Cycle

  • Application - This section of the cycle presents a problem typical of an industrial situation for the student to solve.

  • This three part cycle is simpler than the Science cycle while retaining the key features.

The Engineering Learning Cycle




Examples of use

  • Engineering Materials- Hardness unit starts with Mhos scale and classification and evolves to Rockwell scale.

  • PLC Module - develops concept of N.O and N.C. switches and evolves to the XIC and XIO commands of PLC ladder logic.

  • The exploration is the most difficult part of the module!

The Engineering Learning Cycle





Barr, R. & Tagg, J. (1995, November, December) From teaching to learning: A new paradigm for undergraduate education. Change, 13-25.

Brown, A. (1995, April/May). Human factors: The problems of integrating people and technology in the workplace. On the Horizon, 3(4), pp. 1-2, 5-6.

Johnson, S.D. & Thomas, R.G. (1994, Winter/Spring). Implications of cognitive science for instructional design in technology education. The Journal of Technical Studies, 20(1), 33-45.

Knowles, M.S. & Associates (1984). Androgogy in action. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Redish, E.F. (1994, September). Implications of Cognitive Studies for teaching physics. American Journal of Physics, 62, (9) 796-803.

Shaw, D.S. (1992, Spring). Computer aided instruction for adult professionals. Journal of Computer Based Instruction, 19(2), 54-57.

For additional information:

  • Dr. Pearley Cunningham CCAC1750 Clairton Road West Mifflin, PA 15122

  • Phone (412) 469-6299

  • email: pcunningham@ccac.eduor

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