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A Study of Feedback Provided to Student Teams Engaged in Open-Ended Projects

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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

Pedagogy and Learning 1

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.111.1 - 24.111.23



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Paper Authors


Laura Hirshfield Oregon State University

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Laura Hirshfield is a postdoctoral scholar at Oregon State University. She received her B.S. from the University of Michigan and her Ph.D. from Purdue University, both in chemical engineering. She currently is doing research in the engineering education field, investigating technology-mediated active learning in a chemical engineering curriculum. After her post-doc, she plans to pursue a career in academia.

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Jaynie L. Whinnery Oregon State University

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Jaynie Whinnery is a graduate student studying public policy at Oregon State University. She also holds an M.S. in environmental engineering and a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Oregon State University. Her research in engineering education is focused on student teams engaged in the Virtual Bioreactor (VBioR) Laboratory project. She is specifically interested in understanding the student-instructor interactions and feedback that occur during this project and how these factors influence student learning.

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Debra M. Gilbuena Oregon State University

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Debra Gilbuena is a postdoctoral scholar in the School of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University. Debra has an M.B.A., an M.S., and four years of industrial experience, including a position in sensor development. Sensor development is also an area in which she holds a patent. She currently has research focused on student learning in virtual laboratories and the diffusion of educational interventions and practices.

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Milo Koretsky Oregon State University

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Milo Koretsky is a professor of chemical engineering at Oregon State University. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from the University of California, San Diego, and his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, all in chemical engineering. He currently has research activity in areas related to engineering education and is interested in integrating technology into effective educational practices and in promoting the use of higher-level cognitive skills in engineering problem solving. His research interests particularly focus on what prevents students from being able to integrate and extend the knowledge developed in specific courses in the core curriculum to the more complex, authentic problems and projects they face as professionals. Dr. Koretsky is one of the founding members of the Center for Lifelong STEM Education Research at OSU.

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A Study of Feedback Provided to Student Teams Engaged in Open-Ended ProjectsIn this research paper, we continue our investigation of feedback in open-ended projects basedon industrially-situated virtual laboratories. Feedback has been found to be one of the mostimportant factors for educational achievement. We believe it is especially valuable in open-ended projects where student teams can proceed along multiple paths. Our industrially-situatedVirtual Laboratory projects provide a unique learning environment for the study of feedback dueto the instructional design and to the variation in student teams, project types, and instructors.Previous work has compared four student teams working on a single Virtual Laboratory projectand has shown that feedback varies widely for each of the four teams. This work extends thestudy to examine the coaching sessions from an entire cohort of 29 student teams working onthree different virtual laboratory projects. The findings demonstrate that feedback in an open-ended team project is dynamic and tailored to a team’s approach. There also are generaldifferences due to instructor and project content. This study seeks to characterize how feedbackis approached for different student teams, projects, and instructors within a similar instructionaldesign.The 29 student teams studied are in their final year of a chemical, biological and environmentalengineering undergraduate program. The students self-selected their teams and then chose towork on the Virtual Chemical Vapor Deposition (VCVD) or on one of two Virtual Bioreactor(VBioR) Laboratory projects. The students were tasked with defining a set of optimal inputparameters to manufacture a quality, consistent product within budgetary constraints. As a partof the three-week project, students were required to meet twice with a faculty member. Twofaculty members, a CVD domain expert and a bioprocesses domain expert, provided feedback tostudent teams during these scheduled 30 minute “coaching sessions.” The coaching sessions arevital for providing feedback to the student groups. The coach is able to assess the team’s currentapproach, help incorporate concepts from prior courses and guide the students to improve theirstrategy.Data sources include video recordings, student work products, and researcher observation notes.Recording transcripts for each team are analyzed from the first coaching session, in which thecoach provided feedback regarding the team’s initial experimental strategy for the project. Weuse an episodes framework to analyze the feedback by breaking down the discourse into thematicunits having a clear beginning and ending point. This method allows for the identification of theprimary themes of the coaching session and for comparison of how the feedback proceeded foreach student group. By examining a larger group of student teams than previously studied, weare able to address the following research questions: What are the most prevalent themes andtypes of themes that occur in the coaching sessions? How do these themes vary among studentteams working on the different Virtual Laboratory projects? How does the coach’s feedbackcompare and contrast for different student teams and across the different projects? And finally,what do the findings imply about the nature of feedback in open-ended projects?

Hirshfield, L., & Whinnery, J. L., & Gilbuena, D. M., & Koretsky, M. (2014, June), A Study of Feedback Provided to Student Teams Engaged in Open-Ended Projects Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20003

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