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Chemical Engineering Problem Solving: How Important Is Persistence?

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Focus on Entry Experiences in Chemical Engineering

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.323.1 - 22.323.12



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Paper Authors


Jeffrey Heys Montana State University

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Jeffrey J. Heys is an assistant professor of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Montana State University. He received his B.S. in chemical engineering in 1996 from Montana State University, and his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 1998 and 2001, respectively. His research area is computational transport and computational fluid dynamics in biological systems with an emphasis on fluid-structure interaction and multiphase flows.

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Chemical Engineering Problem Solving: How Important Is Persistence? Jeffrey J. Heys Assistant Professor Chemical Engineering Montana State University Bozeman, MT 59717 jeff.heys@gmail.comAbstractOver the past two decades, research on problem solving has focused on identifying thefactors that impact successful problem solving. One factor researchers have identified isthat persistence and doggedness are frequently key attributes of successful problemsolvers. Some researchers have suggested, however, that as the number of distractionsavailable to students increases (e.g., cell phones, social networking), the problem solvingabilities of students will decline due to a lack of persistence. This paper begins byexamining previous research on the link between persistence and problem solvingsuccesses, most of which has been conducted outside of Chemical Engineering. Most ofthis research has been qualitative; based on observations of students trying to solveproblems in mathematics and physics. To gain a quantitative insight into the connectionbetween persistence and problem solving success, we examine self-reported timeutilization data from both second-year and third-year chemical engineering students.Persistence is examined both in terms of the average length of time between interruptionswhile solving a problem and the total amount of time spent on a problem. In most cases,the data shows a positive correlation between problem solving success and persistence,but the correlation is weak and not as significant as other factors in determining problemsolving success. Further, time per problem solving session between interruptions is themore significant variable in determining problem solving success for the lower-levelcourse, but for the upper-level course, the opposite result was observed. There, the totaltime spent per problem was a significant variable, but time between interruptions was notsignificant.Keywords: persistence, problem solving, time allocation

Heys, J. (2011, June), Chemical Engineering Problem Solving: How Important Is Persistence? Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17604

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