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An Active Learning Mode For Laboratory Education

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.58.1 - 1.58.6



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Paper Authors

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Lang-Wah Lee

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Tamer Ceylan

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

.—-. Session 2533


Lang-Wah Lee, Tamer Ceylan Mechanical and Industrial Engineering U n i v . of W i s c o n s i n - P l a t t e v i l l e Platteville, WI 53818


Thermal Systems Laboratory is a required course in the Mechanical Engineering curriculum at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. The course is offered to senior students after they have completed four required engineering science courses in thermofluid area. The goals of the course are to: (1) consolidate and integrate knowledge covered in the four courses, i.e. , Thermodynamics, Fluid Dynamics, Applied Thermodynamics, and Heat Transfer; (2) broaden knowledge through applications to solve “real- world” problems; (3) nurture students’ creativity and ability in c o n d u c t i n g experiments; and (4) develop written and oral communication skills. However, due to the limitations i-n the traditional instruction method, the potential benefits of the course were not fully realized in the past.

The majority of experiments in the Thermal Systems Laboratory are inherently equipment-intensive and students are usually not familiar with the operation of the equipment. Cost and safety concerns often limit the scope and scale of the experiments. Traditionally, students work with fixed l a b o r a t o r y setups suitable only for routine experiments. They are provided with detailed and rigid experimental procedures to follow. Such a “cookbook” approach creates a passive learning environment in which students’ initiative and motivation are suppressed. The learning environment is even more problematic when experiments involving computer data acquisition system are conducted. Quite often, the objectives are obscured by the complicated electronic hardware and computer software. In this case, students consider the entire system as a IIblack boxlr and the experiments become rather uninteresting and unstimulating.

The problems mentioned above have prompted the authors to search for new methods to improve the effectiveness of the course. One effective measure is to change the passive learning environment to an active one. Active learning changes the teaching of the course from “teacher-centered!! to ‘tstudent-centeredlr. Such a change not only inspires and motivates students to do a better work in the course, but also sparks increased creativity and c u r i o s i t y within the students. In addition to these b e n e f i t s , the students also learn how to conduct engineering experiments in an environment similar to actual engineering practice.


What constitutes an active learning laboratory environment? First, the .-z .. ~figti~ 1996 ASEE Annual Conference Proceedings ‘.,+,yyy%,:

Lee, L., & Ceylan, T. (1996, June), An Active Learning Mode For Laboratory Education Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--5879

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