Document Type



Educational Assessment, Evaluation, and Research | Educational Methods | Higher Education | Mechanical Engineering | Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Publication Details

Published online in European Journal of Engineering Education on 9th May 2022.

© 2022 SEFI

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The post-print will be available to download from this site on 9th May 2023.


In engineering, kinematics is widely regarded as a fundamental topic with the literature agreeing that students possess a wide range in understanding of the topic. This study aims to take a second-order approach by understanding and exploring the qualitatively different ways in which students approach solving kinematics problems. Phenomenography was used to collect data through ten semi-structured interviews with early-stage mechanical engineering students. Following data analysis, four distinct categories of students’ approaches were identified; unstructured, framing the problem, strategic, and conceptual. It was found that these categories could be arranged in a hierarchy and were also supported by secondary epistemic factors in determining why students employed a particular approach. The findings emphasise the need for approaching instruction from multiple perspectives and suggest a more comprehensive learning experience can be supported by linking practical laboratory observations with real-world concepts, use of visual aids, dry labs, active and peer-to-peer learning.