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Cooperative Learning Of Neutron Diffusion And Transport Theories

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.145.1 - 4.145.10

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Michael Robinson

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

Session 1655

Cooperative Learning of Neutron Diffusion and Transport Theories

Michael A. Robinson Bechtel Bettis, Inc. Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory


A cooperative group instructional strategy is being used to teach a unit on neutron transport and diffusion theory in a first-year-graduate level, Reactor Theory course that was formerly presented in the traditional lecture/discussion style. Students are divided into groups of two or three for the duration of the unit. Class meetings are divided into traditional lecture/discussion segments punctuated by cooperative group exercises. The group exercises were designed to require the students to elaborate, summarize, or practice the material presented in the lecture/discussion segments. Both positive interdependence and individual accountability are fostered by adjusting individual grades on the unit exam by a factor dependent upon group achievement. Group collaboration was also encouraged on homework assignments by assigning each group a single grade on each assignment. The results of the unit exam have been above average in the two classes in which the cooperative group method was employed. In particular, the problem solving ability of the students has shown particular improvement. Further, the students felt that the cooperative group format was both more educationally effective and more enjoyable than the lecture/discussion format.


A cooperative group strategy was used to teach a unit on neutron transport and diffusion theories in a first-year-graduate level, Reactor theory course taught at the Bettis Atomic Power Laboratory. The Reactor Theory course is part of an accelerated training program offered at the laboratory that is similar in level and content to a masters degree program in nuclear engineering. Students complete twelve courses with a total of approximately 700 classroom hours during a 24 week period. Much highly complex, technical material is communicated in that short time period.

Historically, the unit covering transport and diffusion theories has been one of the most challenging for students. Although all of the students have at least an undergraduate degree in engineering, science, or mathematics, only a few students have a degree in nuclear engineering. Thus, for most of the students, Reactor Theory is a new area of study. The unit on transport and diffusion theories involves some of the most complex subject matter in the Reactor Theory course. The equations of state typically involve seven independent variables, and employ mathematics on the level of integro-differential and partial differential equations. The scores on the unit examination for the transport and diffusion topics have resulted in the lowest average

Robinson, M. (1999, June), Cooperative Learning Of Neutron Diffusion And Transport Theories Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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