The overarching objective of this research is to recognize the learning styles of engineering and technology students and to propose pedagogical methods for the comprehension of technological concepts in electricity. The topic of electrical resistor-capacitor (RC) circuits has been chosen because it is fundamental to engineering and technology courses. There is substantial evidence to suggest that students find such a concept difficult to grasp. The focus of the research lies in explicating undergraduate students cognitive structures about RC circuits, and proposing a method related to students learning styles of how these cognitive structures may be enhanced. The main thesis argument claims that the transfer of knowledge from familiar RC circuit configurations to unfamiliar RC circuit configurations does not occur easily even if the problem-space is kept identical. The methodology used in this research is a mixed-method approach employing qualitative and quantitative data-gathering and analysis processes.
This research concludes that the reasons for lack of transfer of knowledge stem from conceptual and perceptual constraints. Constraints involve: (a) which analogical models are employed in relation to the RC circuit, (b) how the circuit schematic diagram is drawn, and (c) relations between analogy, circuit schematic diagram, voltage-time graphs and verbal jargon used to describe circuit behaviour. The research presents a variety of novel, custom-designed learning aids which are employed within the research methodology to rectify the lack of transfer of knowledge for the RC circuits considered in the study. The design of these learning aids is based on the concept of embodied cognition and mainly makes use of visual and kinaesthetic means to appeal to students who may have different learning styles. The use of such learning aids is proposed as a complementary teaching strategy. The approach taken in this research and its outcomes are significant because they continue to inform the research and educational communities about how human development may be fostered through engineering and technology education (Barak and Hacker, 2011).
A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.