Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Education

Committee Chair(s)

Oenardi Lawanto


Oenardi Lawanto


Kurt Becker


Michael Pate


Gary Stewardson


Wade Goodridge


Task interpretation is a critical first step in the process of self-regulated learning and a key determinant of the goals students set while learning and the criteria used in selecting the strategy in their work. Laboratory activities have been proposed to improve students' conceptual understanding when working independently and alongside peers while integrating new experiences in a lab setting. The purpose of this study was to investigate how the explicit and implicit aspects of student's interpretation of the task assigned during laboratory work may change during the task process, and how that interpretation may influence the student's coregulation and conceptual understanding.

One-hundred and forty-three sophomore students enrolled in the course of Fundamental Electronics for Engineers participated in this study. Instruments designed to measure task interpretation and conceptual understanding were created and validated in a pilot study. They were applied before and after selected laboratory activities during the semester. The instrument used to measure correlation was applied at the end of every selected laboratory activity.

Statistical analysis indicated differences between the student's task interpretation before and after the laboratory activity. Students improved in approximately 15% in the level of task interpretation. From the 143 students, only 37 of them were identified with high levels of task interpretation and coregulation. Moreover, Pearson correlations identified a positive correlation between the students' task interpretation and conceptual understanding of the students during the laboratory work.

Findings suggested students' task interpretation changed during the task process and increased after the completion of laboratory activity. Overall, the findings showed a low level of task interpretation. However, students with a high level of task interpretation reached high levels of coregulation. Findings confirmed previous research that round students generally have an incomplete understanding of the assigned tasks, and struggle to establish a connection between laboratory activities and theory. Lastly, this study reported a significant relationship between students' task interpretation and conceptual understanding in laboratory work which has not been reported in the most recent published reports. Further investigation is necessary to unveil other factors related to these constructs in order to engage students in laboratory work.