Sunday, January 10, 2016

Don't Lose Your Students in Techno-Speak

Many students find the large number of technical terms used in HVAC/R confusing. To the uninitiated, HVACR has its own language of technical jargon that can become a barrier to learning. Confusion over terminology can lead to not clearly understanding crucial concepts. This problem is compounded by the use of acronyms and abbreviations that are frequently used when discussing common topics. For example, one major valve manufacturer uses the acronym TEV to represent “thermostatic expansion valve,” while another uses the acronym TXV for the same thing. Instructors should try to keep techno-speak to a minimum. Instead try using, common, easily understood language whenever possible. Making a relatively simple concept seem highly technical by using an overabundance of jargon does not help students. There are plenty of truly difficult things as it is, we don’t need to make simple things complex.

Of course, students must still learn the HVACR language. Having a solid grasp of the terminology is necessary to make use of essential technical literature produced by equipment manufacturers. To encourage students to learn the language, use the complete word or phrase before introducing an acronym. It helps to explain concepts plainly, and then introduce the technical terminology that is used to refer to the concept. The students are more likely to remember the terminology if it is logically connected to something they understand. For example, I have found that students just starting to learn the operation of the refrigeration cycle often can recite the order of components, but they have not made the connection between the component names and what they do. It is much easier to remember “TEV” if you know that “TEV” is an acronym for “thermostatic expansion valve” and you know that the refrigerant expands as it goes through the thermostatic expansion valve. Most of the unique terminology in HVACR describes something and understanding what it is describing helps students retain it. I am not a proponent of giving students a long list of terms to memorize – I believe they should learn the terms as the topics come up so they can learn them in context. For example, to really understand what a transcritical system is, you need to understand a bit about the critical point and preferably refrigerant pressure-enthalpy diagrams. Then it is easy to point out that the high side of a transcritical system is above the critical point while the low side is below it. So the system operates across the critical point – thus; transcritical. Understanding where the term comes from is really important to remembering it and using it correctly.

1 comment:

  1. Agreed Carter. On the expansion device, as you are aware, we teach it as "Expansion Device". Then we gout about determining the difference between fixed orifice, automatic as seen in drink coolers, capillary, thermostatic, high side and low side float and a few more including the electronic models seen everywhere now.

    Lots to learn, but starting with a generic term has the Tech think. Expansion Device works for us here.

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