Abstraction Thresholds in Undergraduate Electrical Engineering Curricula
American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)
A great deal of work has been done to study the types of problems posed to students in various disciplines and to examine the approaches used by students and experts to solve these problems. This paper describes a knowledge representation framework developed by Hahn and Chater  for analyzing a person’s episode of reasoning while solving a problem and presents some preliminary results of the application of this framework to students taking a course in signal and systems. This course occurs in the junior year of an electrical engineering undergraduate curriculum at a larger public university. The preliminary results demonstrate that the framework can be successfully used to distinguish between different types of reasoning that students use when solving problems in this course. This study is part of a larger effort that is trying to determine if there is a specific point in a typical undergraduate electrical engineering curriculum at which the cognitive demand of the problems being posed exceeds the cognitive supply being brought to the problem by a typical student. The Hahn and Chater framework is being used to assess cognitive supply.