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A Study of Lateralized Cognitive Processes in Upper-Division Electrical Engineering Students’: Correlating Written Language Functions with Analytical Reasoning in Microelectronics

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DOI: 10.4236/wjet.2014.22008    5,456 Downloads   7,494 Views
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ABSTRACT

The human brain is asymmetrical in function, with each of its two hemispheres being somewhat responsible for distinct cognitive and motor tasks, to include writing. It stands to reason that engineering students who have established entrance into their upper-division programs will have demonstrated cognitive proficiency in math and logical operations, abstract and analytical reasoning and language usage, to include writing. In this study the question was asked: is there a correlation between an upper-division electrical engineering students’ analytical reasoning ability and their descriptive writing ability? Descriptive writing is taken here to mean a students’ ability to identify key physical aspects of a mathematical model and to express—in words—a concise and well-balanced description that demonstrates a deep conceptual understanding of the model. This includes more than a description of the variables or the particular application to an engineering problem; it includes a demonstrated recognition of the basic physics that govern the model, certain limitations (idealizations) inherent in the model, and an understanding of how to make practical experimental measurements to verify the governing physics in the model. A student at this level may demonstrate proficiency in their analytical reasoning skills and hence be capable of correctly solving a given problem. However, this does not guarantee that the same student is skilled in associating equations with their physical meaning on a deep conceptual level or in understanding physical limitations of the equation. Consequently, such a student may demonstrate difficulty in mapping their comprehension of the model into written language that demonstrates a sound conceptual understanding of the governing physics. The findings represent a sample of two independent class sections of Electrical and Computer Engineering junior’s first course in Microe-lectronic Devices and Circuits during fall semesters 2012 and 2013 at a private mid-size university in NW Oregon. A total of three exams were administered to each of the 2012/2013 groups. Correlations between exam scores that students achieved on their descriptive writing of microelectronics phenomena and their analytical problem-solving abilities were examined and found to be quite significant.

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Melendy, R. (2014) A Study of Lateralized Cognitive Processes in Upper-Division Electrical Engineering Students’: Correlating Written Language Functions with Analytical Reasoning in Microelectronics. World Journal of Engineering and Technology, 2, 73-81. doi: 10.4236/wjet.2014.22008.

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