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A Reflective Writing Assignment to Engage Students in Critical Thinking

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Using Communication and Writing Techniques to Improve Student Learning

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.96.1 - 23.96.13



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Paper Authors

author page

Taryn Melkus Bayles University of Maryland, Baltimore County

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A Reflective Writing Assignment to Engage Students in Critical Thinking Our department has adopted the following Program Education Objectives which we refer to as “theFive C’s”. Within three to five years after graduation our graduates will have demonstrated Competency inthe discipline of chemical engineering; our graduates will have exhibited Critical thinking ability that hasenabled them to solve complex problems; our graduates will have successfully achieved Cooperation goalsthrough teamwork; our graduates will have demonstrated effective Communication and our graduates willhave exhibited the Capacity for life-long learning. With these objectives in mind, our undergraduates havea wide variety of experiences which support student outcomes which define the set of learning outcomesrepresenting knowledge, skills and behaviors students should possess by the time of graduation in orderto achieve the Program Educational Objectives. One of our specific student outcomes is to solve andanalyze open-ended problems and another is to engage in critical thinking by evaluating designsolutions. To this end, as part of a freshman engineering design course, our students were required todesign, construct, test and evaluate a system which would mimic the performance of a heart-lungmachine. The goal of each design was to flow the ‘blood’ at an appropriate rate through their system,which was required to oxygenate and cool the ‘blood’. Their design also had to minimize leaks and systemvolume. In addition to design, construction and testing, the teams were required to evaluate their systemperformance using theoretical calculations. This project provided an introduction to transport phenomenaby combining momentum, heat and mass transfer. Two and a half years later, these same studentsmatriculated into our chemical engineering program and completed their junior level courses in TransportPhenomena I (Fluids) and II (Heat and Mass Transfer). As part of their Transport Phenomena II class, thestudents were given their original freshman engineering design reports and were required to provide ananalysis of their design. The analysis assignment was two-fold: the students were required to submit agroup report re-analyzing the technical merits of their heart-lung design project and the students were alsorequired to submit an individual reflection paper. The group report analysis included: significance ofdesign criteria, engineering design process and theoretical analysis of data collected. The idea behind thereflection assignment was to help the students clarify what they have studied and learned, integrate newknowledge with pervious knowledge, as well as to help them become an active and aware learner so thatthey can better understand how they learn. Their reflection topics included: the engineering designprocess, engineering/math/science connections and technical writing. This presentation will feature a description of the design project challenge and descriptions ofsolutions. The grading rubric which was provided to the students to use as a guide for the reflectionassignment will be included. In addition, a summary of the group design analysis and the individualreflection assignments will be provided.

Bayles, T. M. (2013, June), A Reflective Writing Assignment to Engage Students in Critical Thinking Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19110

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