Collaborative Research:

Improving Engineering Students' Learning Strategies through Models and Modeling

(MEDIA Project) – NSF DUE CCLI Phase 3

The MEDIA (Modeling: Elicitation, Development, Integration, and Assessment) project is a large-scale, four-year, National Science Foundation funded, collaborative research project between seven major universities: University of Pittsburgh, University of Minnesota, US Air Force Academy, Colorado School of Mines, Pepperdine University, Purdue University, and California Polytechnic State University.


The purpose of the research is for the implementation of models and modeling as a foundation for undergraduate STEM curriculum and assessment, especially within engineering domains.


To do this, we are building upon and extending Model-Eliciting Activities (MEAs), a proven methodology originally developed by mathematics education researchers, and which has been recently introduced to engineering education. These authentic assessment tasks are complex, open-ended problems set in a realistic context with a client. Solutions to MEAs require generalizable procedures, which reveal the thought processes of the students. The activities are such that the students work in teams of three to four to express their model, test it using sample data, and revise their procedure to meet the needs of their client.

About MEAs

MEA theory and practice was developed to observe the development of student problem-solving competencies and the growth of mathematical and conceptual cognition. However, it has been increasingly documented as a methodology to help students become better problem solvers, as a tool to help both instructors and researchers better design situations to engage learners in productive conceptual thinking, and as a vehicle for interest and engagement for underrepresented student populations. For this research, we are extending the MEA construct to help repair misconceptions by creating concept MEAs (C-MEAs), to ethical situations by creating ethics MEAs (E-MEAs), and to innovation by creating innovation MEAs (I-MEAs) in order to better understand the various strategies student teams use in approaching these respective concerns.

Implications of Our Research

Successful completion of this project will provide engineering and STEM educators with an understanding of how students learn to become better problem-solvers including resolving ethical dilemmas, how misconceptions enter into the process (and how they can be repaired) and how to enhance the creative process to produce more innovative engineers. Faculty will be able to better identify areas for learning enhancements and introduce informed curriculum improvements. This should be particularly useful in classroom settings where instructors could determine students’ abilities at various points during the course, intervening when appropriate and enabling students to better understand their areas of weakness. In addition, students will learn to become better problem-solvers and more innovative. Clearly, such results could be extended beyond engineering to other STEM disciplines.

Recent News

Ph.D. student Scot Hovan implemented MEAs in the classroom, and he won the Tekne award .


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