An Evaluation of Students’ Practical Intelligence and Ability to Diagnose Equipment Faults

An Evaluation of Students’ Practical Intelligence and Ability to Diagnose Equipment Faults

Zol Bahri Razali (Universiti Malaysia Perlis, Malaysia) and James Trevelyan (University of Western Australia, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-1809-1.ch016


Empirical studies suggest that practical intelligence acquired in engineering laboratories is valuable in engineering practice and could also be a useful learning outcome that is a result from a laboratory experience. To prove this, the author started a project to understand further about the practical learning outcomes from traditional laboratory classes. When tools used by psychologists were applied to measure practical intelligence in an electronics laboratory class, not only could a significant gain in hands-on practical intelligence be measured, but students’ ability to diagnose equipment faults could also be predicted. For the first time, therefore, the author can demonstrate that there are real advantages inherent in hands-on laboratory classes, and supported by Outcome Based Education (OBE) method, it is possible to measure this advantage. It is possible that measurements of practical intelligence may reveal new and more powerful ways for students to acquire practical knowledge. The results firstly demonstrate the ability to devise effective ways to assess the outcomes of practical intelligence acquired by engineering students from their laboratory experiences. The results from the study show that the score on practical intelligence outcomes is proportional with the outcomes of the ability in diagnosing equipment faults. Therefore, the novel results suggest that practical intelligence scores predict the ability to diagnose experiment faults for similar laboratory equipment.
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Issues Concerning Laboratory Classes

One of the most important factors in forming engineering graduate qualities is the practical component of the engineering curriculum (Feisel & Albert, 2005) such as laboratory class. Laboratory classes are valuable learning experiences which can be used to effectively link theory and real-world behaviour of engineering systems and materials. By attending laboratory classes and handling (working with) the equipment, the students are likely to appreciate the details about appearances and functions. The underlying reason for the value of laboratory classes is that lab work is a fundamentally different context for the students’ learning. In a laboratory class, the environment is different compared to other learning environments, such as lectures or tutorials. Students engage with real hardware, components and materials. They embed their learning into different contexts, and construct different knowledge as a result. Working in an engineering laboratory environment provides students with opportunities to validate conceptual knowledge, work collaboratively, interact with equipment, learn by trial and error, perform analysis on experimental data, and operate tools and equipment safely (Feisel & Albert, 2005).

The value of hands-on laboratory classes, however, has not been easy to quantify. Virtual laboratories, simulation, and remote access laboratories offer alternatives from which students seem to learn as well or better. Although the main aim of laboratory work is to provide opportunities to learn and gain experience, we understand relatively little about what actually happens in a typical hands-on laboratory class.

With the high cost of traditional or hands-on laboratory classes and the need for flexible learning, there has been a trend towards providing online laboratory classes through remote or simulated access. Online laboratory classes have been made possible by advancements in software and communication technologies (Trevelyan, 2007). Evaluations from users suggest that these laboratory experiences are likely to enhance understanding of related concepts as compared to what students would have learned such as theory in traditional hands-on laboratory classes (Lindsay & Good, 2005),although there are differences in the way that students experience on-line simulation labs.

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