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A Creative Experience for Chemical, Food, and Environmental Engineering Students in a Material Balances Course

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Design, Creativity and Critical Thinking in the Chemical Engineering Curriculum

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.40.1 - 24.40.14

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Paper Authors


Silvia Husted Universidad de las Americas Puebla

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Silvia Husted is a science, engineering, and technology education Ph.D. student at the Universidad de las Americas Puebla in Mexico. She teaches design related courses. Her research interests include creative thinking, cognitive processes, and creating effective learning environments.

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Nelly Ramirez-Corona Universidad de las Americas Puebla

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Aurelio Lopez-Malo Universidad de las Americas Puebla


Enrique Palou Universidad de las Americas Puebla

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Professor Palou is the director of the Center for Science, Engineering, and Technology Education as well as Distinguished Professor and Past Chair, Department of Chemical, Food, and Environmental Engineering, at the Universidad de las Americas Puebla in Mexico. He teaches engineering, food science, and education related courses. His research interests include emerging technologies for food processing, creating effective learning environments, using tablet PCs and associated technologies to enhance the development of 21st century expertise in engineering students, and building rigorous research capacity in science, engineering and technology education.

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A Creative Experience for Chemical, Food, and Environmental Engineering Students in a Material Balances CourseCreative thinking includes the capacity to combine or synthesize existing ideas, images, orexpertise in original ways and the experience of thinking, reacting, and working in animaginative way characterized by a high degree of innovation, divergent thinking, and risktaking1. The challenging problems facing our society are not likely to be solved by conventionalmeans. To the extent that these problems are technological, creative engineers are needed tosolve them2. Despite all that has been demonstrated regarding problem solving and creativethinking, many engineering schools are still relying on the traditional lecture-homework-quizformat of well-defined problems and single correct answers. Unfortunately, while efficient, thisformat has not shown to be effective at producing the critical, innovative thinking skills neededto solve difficult technological problems2, 3.This paper will describe a module for promoting students’ creativity in a Material Balancessecond semester required course for Chemical, Food, and Environmental Engineering atUniversity ABC. Major goals include to stimulate and strengthen student cognitive flexibilitythat could allow them to be creative thinkers. The proposed four class-sessions module is anactive and cooperative experience that was implemented as course final project. Studentsexplored creativity through multiple representations of a problem that should be presented inwritten, graphic, and audio-visual manner to an expert audience for its evaluation. According tothe Cognitive Flexibility Theory4, 5, multiple representations of knowledge promote the transferof abstract knowledge to different contexts while cognitive flexibility is one of the four baseelements of creativity6. For the design of the learning environments of the module, we followJonassen7. Final projects were presented to experts in the field that assessed student creativethinking by means of a rubric adapted from the investment theory of creativity developed bySternberg and Lubart6, 8, 9, which provide a multidimensional assessment of creativity. Instructor,peer-, and self-assessments were also performed. Possible performance levels were fromexemplar (value of 4) to benchmark (value of 1).Students were able to build concrete examples of a material balance in an everyday situation andrepresent them in many ways (physically, verbally, symbolically, and by means of a multimediapresentation). Integrated reflections present in final project dossiers, suggest that this projectallowed them to strengthen their learning and understanding of main concepts included in courselearning outcomes. Mean values from rubric assessment of final projects were 3.13 for creativeperformance, 3.80 for knowledge of domain (application of formal and informal knowledge),3.31 for intellectual style (includes indicators such as autonomy and rules), 3.28 for motivation(level of commitment, project pride, and interest in task), 3.02 for intellectual processes (whichincludes indicators such as sensitivity, problem identification, ideation, ability to recognize ideasthat have potential to be valued, as well as ability to sell your ideas effectively and persuade ofits value), 2.90 for creative personality (with indicators such as tolerance for ambiguity, risktaking, will, and perseverance), and 2.76 for the product itself (which includes originality,quality, importance, and feasibility) that in this case is the example of an everyday situation. Thevast majority of students attained final project expected outcomes at an acceptable level.[1] AAC&U. 2013. Creative Thinking Value Rubric. Washington, DC: Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). Available online at rubrics/pdf/All_Rubrics.pdf[2] Felder, R. M. 1987. On Creating Creative Engineers. Engineering Education, 77(4): 222-227.[3] Jonassen, D. H., Strobel, J., and Lee, C. B. 2006. Everyday problem solving in engineering: Lessons for engineering educators. Journal of Engineering Education, 95(2): 1–14.[4] Spiro, R., Coulson, R., Feltovich, P., and Anderson, D. 1988. Cognitive Flexibility Theory: Advanced knowledge acquisition in ill-structured domains. In Proceedings of the 10th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.[5] Spiro, R., Vispoel, W., and Schmitz, J. 1997. Knowledge Acquisition for Application: Cognitive Flexibility and Transfer in Complex Content Domains. In Readings in Executive Control Processes. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.[6] Sternberg, R. J. and Lubart, T. I. 1993. Creative Giftedness: A Multivariate Approach Investment. Gifted Child Quarterly, 37(1): 7-15.[7] Jonassen, D. H. 2011. Learning to Solve Problems: A Handbook for Designing Problem- Solving Learning Environments. New York: Routledge.[8] Sternberg, R. J., Lubart, T. I., Kaufman, J. C. and Prelz, J. E. 2005. Creativity. In K. J. Holyoak and R. G. Morrison (Eds.) The Cambridge Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning (pp. 351-369). New York: Cambridge University Press.[9] Sternberg, R. J. and O' Hara L. 2005. Creatividad e Inteligencia. Cuadernos de Información y Comunicación, 10: 113-149.

Husted, S., & Ramirez-Corona, N., & Lopez-Malo, A., & Palou, E. (2014, June), A Creative Experience for Chemical, Food, and Environmental Engineering Students in a Material Balances Course Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana.

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