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A Student Centered Approach To The Stoichiometry Course

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

ChE: Innovations in the Classroom

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.121.1 - 12.121.13



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Paper Authors


Lisa Bullard North Carolina State University

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Dr. Lisa G. Bullard received her BS in ChE from NC State and her Ph.D. in ChE from Carnegie Mellon. She served in engineering and management positions within Eastman Chemical Company from 1991-2000. At N.C. State, she is currently the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Chemical Engineering. Her research interests include curriculum development, information literacy, and the integration of teaming, writing, and speaking into the undergraduate curriculum.

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Richard Felder North Carolina State University

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Dr. Richard M. Felder is the Hoechst Celanese Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering at North Carolina State University. He is coauthor of Elementary Principles of Chemical Processes, an introductory chemical engineering text now in its third edition. He has contributed over 200 publications to the fields of science and engineering education and chemical process engineering, and writes "Random Thoughts," a column on educational methods and issues for the quarterly journal Chemical Engineering Education. With his wife and colleague, Dr. Rebecca Brent, he codirects the National Effective Teaching Institute (NETI) and regularly offers teaching effectiveness workshops on campuses and at conferences around the world

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract


For several years, the stoichiometry course at N.C. State University has incorporated a variety of student-centered teaching methods, including extensive active and cooperative learning. This paper describes the instructional approach used in the course, outlines student responses to it, and offers recommendations to instructors contemplating a similar approach.

Introduction The introductory chemical engineering course in most programs—the “stoichiometry course”— is considered by many alumni the most important course in the curriculum. Their jobs may not call for them to remember anything from their transport or kinetics or control or calculus courses, but if they are still functioning as chemical engineers, they are probably still involved with material and energy balances on processes—formulating them, solving them, and trying to figure out why they don’t close in practice the way they do on paper. Students taking the course have historically not had such a positive view of its utility, however. They are more likely to fear and/or despise it, describing it in terms that often include the term “weed-out,” and it is not uncommon for that description to be accurate. Exam grades in the course are chronically low, failure rates are high, and student ratings are often lower than they are for any other course in the curriculum. Beginning in the late 1970s, an active learning-based approach to the stoichiometry course was adopted at N.C. State, in which most lectures included activities that provided practice and feedback in the methods that would be required on homework and tests. A 1990 paper outlined the new instructional approach and described the turnaround in student performance and evaluations that resulted from its adoption.1 The stoichiometry course has continued to evolve. Since the early 1990s, it has been taught using cooperative (team-based) learning, with measures being taken to hold all team members individually accountable for the entire content of team assignments. Instructional technology has played an increasingly important role in the course, with variety of software tools supplementing traditional instruction. Assignments include traditional closed-ended problems as well as open-ended problems that call for creative or critical thinking or both. In the Fall 2005 semester, 110 students enrolled in two sections of the stoichiometry course. Although each of the authors was primarily responsible for one lecture section, we worked together closely to generate common course materials, assignments, and tests, and we periodically guest-lectured in each other’s sections. This paper outlines the structure of the course and how it was taught, and offers suggestions to faculty who might wish to adapt the approach to their own teaching. Course Structure and Policies The stoichiometry course at N.C. State, designated CBE 205, is a four-credit 1-semester course, structured as three 50-minute or two 75-minute interactive lecture classes per week taught by a faculty member plus a two-hour weekly problem session (recitation) conducted by a graduate teaching assistant. The text is the 2005 addition of Elementary Principles of Chemical


Bullard, L., & Felder, R. (2007, June), A Student Centered Approach To The Stoichiometry Course Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1543

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2007 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015