Asee peer logo

A Student Centered Learning Lab to Increase Motivation and Interest in Environmental Engineering

Download Paper |


2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Hands-on Laboratory and Design Experiences in Environmental Engineering

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.105.1 - 25.105.13

Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Sandeep Sathyamoorthy Tufts University

visit author page

Sandeep Sathyamoorthy is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Tufts University. Prior to this, Sathyamoorthy was a Project Engineer at AECOM Water, focusing on BNR/ENR wastewater treatment plant design and water reuse treatment processes.

visit author page


Linda Jarvin Paris College of Art

visit author page

Linda Jarvin, Ph.D., is the Dean of Paris College of Art in Paris, France, and an Adjunct Professor at Tufts University, Mass.
She received her Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from the University of Paris V and her postdoctoral training at Yale University. She has extensive experience with curriculum planning and development, designing and implementing professional development opportunities for teachers and faculty, and facilitating programmatic evaluation in the United States and abroad.

visit author page

author page

Michael Hollis U.S. Air Force Academy

author page

John Anthony Christ U.S. Air Force Academy

author page

C. Andrew Ramsburg Tufts University

Download Paper |


A Student Centered Learning Lab to Increase Motivation & Interest in Environmental EngineeringProblem based learning (PBL) is a well established student-centered approach which promotesapplication-based learning, enhances problem solving skills and fosters peer learning. This paperdescribes implementation of a PBL within a junior-level course on environmental engineeringprocesses. The PBL was an open-ended, two-hour lab, where student teams designed, built andtested a prototype water treatment system to achieve stated water quality criteria (UVtransmittance and turbidity). Each team was given a scope of work that outlined the problem,objectives, design criteria, available materials, constraints, effluent quality testing protocol (usinga synthetic influent) and evaluation criteria. Students were given no prior information about thelab, and the PBL lab was the first lab of the semester.A multidimensional instrument was developed and administered three times throughout thesemester. Questions were designed to evaluate whether or not the PBL had a quantifiable effecton learner motivation (for the course and environmental engineering), and self efficacy. Resultsindicate that the students enter the course as highly motivated learners (cohort motivation forcourse (out of 5): median=5, mean=4.32). This ceiling effects limits assessment of the directimpact of the PBL lab on learner motivation. The data do, however, suggest that learner selfefficacy increased as a result of the PBL. Evidence from post-lab student presentations supportsthis observation, with teams applying knowledge from previous classes to this new problem.The PBL lab was received; students reported enjoying collaborating with their peers to develop atangible solution to a real-world problem. Student feedback suggests the influence of the PBLmay increase if learners had an opportunity to see the influent prior to construction. This studyprovides additional empirical evidence to encourage more widespread inclusion of PBLteaching/learning experiences into environmental engineering curricula.

Sathyamoorthy, S., & Jarvin, L., & Hollis, M., & Christ, J. A., & Ramsburg, C. A. (2012, June), A Student Centered Learning Lab to Increase Motivation and Interest in Environmental Engineering Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas.

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: © 2012 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