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An Experiential And Inductively Structured Process Control Course In Chemical Engineering

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Innovation in ChE Teaching

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.170.1 - 10.170.14



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Paper Authors

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David Silverstein

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An Experiential and Inductively Structured Process Control Course in Chemical Engineering David L. Silverstein University of Kentucky


An inductive approach to teaching chemical engineering courses has been demonstrated to improve student learning in courses such as mass transfer and stoichiometry. One course particularly well-suited to elements of inductive structure is chemical process control, where experiential learning can also be applied to maximize student learning. This paper discusses the first two implementations of an inductive course structure in this three-hour senior-level course at the University of Kentucky Extended Campus Programs in Paducah, Kentucky. Six chemical engineering oriented laboratory experiments in process control are integrated into the course to enable students to make observations, draw conclusions, and establish relationships for specific cases. During subsequent lecture periods students develop the observations they make into general relationships, many of which they later test in the laboratory.

Assessment conducted on student learning indicates that laboratory exercises were most valuable when they preceded classroom discussion (in an inductive structure), provided that the instructions for the experiments and their analysis were very detailed. Non- inductive exercises were preferred for difficult material to aid in developing practical understanding of theoretical concepts. The biggest flaw with incorporating labs into a course scheduled around traditional lecture periods, according to students, was the time it took to complete labs involving heat transfer processes. Processes with shorter time constants, such as flow, level, and pressure control, were preferred.


Process Control has often stood out in the chemical engineering curriculum as a necessary topic that is oddly disconnected from the rest of the curriculum. While control modeling still relies on conservation laws and other fundamentals of chemical engineering, its mathematical focus on process descriptions in the Laplace domain has made it appear to students as a course distinct from “regular” chemical engineering. In reality, process control is key to industrial practice and will draw upon an engineer’s theoretical knowledge and practical experience to be effective. Still, the effect of months spent talking about “s” seems to be a lack of motivation for students to grasp the fundamentals of process control.

The goal of the changes made to this course’s structure has been to restore the student’s perception of the linkage between the course and engineering practice. Additionally, the changes are tied to improved pedagogical methods for student learning, inductive

Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2005, American Society for Engineering Education

Silverstein, D. (2005, June), An Experiential And Inductively Structured Process Control Course In Chemical Engineering Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--15192

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