The role of functionality in the mental representations of engineering students: some differences in the early stages of expertise.

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Abstract or Description

As engineers gain experience and become experts in their domain, the structure and content of their knowledge changes. Two studies are presented that examine differences in knowledge representation among freshman and senior engineering students. The first study examines recall of mechanical devices and chunking of components, and the second examines whether seniors represent devices in a more abstract functional manner than do freshmen. The most prominent differences between these 2 groups involve their representation of the functioning of groups of electromechanical components and how these groups of components interact to produce device behavior. Seniors are better able to construct coherent representations of devices by focusing on the function of sets of components in the device. The findings from these studies highlight some ways in which the structure and content of mental representations of design knowledge differ during the early stages of expertise acquisition.




Published In

Cognitive Science, 30, 1, 65-93.