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Effects of Requiring Students to Write Abstracts for Homework Problem Solutions

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Using Communication and Writing Techniques to Improve Student Learning

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.467.1 - 23.467.10



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Paper Authors


Kevin D. Dahm Rowan University

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Kevin Dahm is an associate professor of Chemical Engineering at Rowan University. He received his B.S. from WPI in 1992 and his Ph.D. from MIT in 1998. His primary areas of pedagogical scholarship are teaching design, process simulation in the curriculum, assessment of student learning and teaching engineering economics. He has received the 2011 Mid-Atlantic Section Outstanding Teaching Award, the 2005 Corcoran Award, the 2004 Fahien Award and the 2003 Martin Award from ASEE.

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Stephanie Farrell Rowan University

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Dr. Stephanie Farrell is an associate professor of Chemical Engineering at Rowan University. She obtained her Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from New Jersey Institute of Technology in 1996. Prior to joining the faculty at Rowan in 1998, she was an assistant professor of Chemical Engineering and adjunct professor of Biomedical Engineering at Louisiana Tech University until 1998. Dr. Farrell has made significant contributions to engineering education through her work in experiential learning, focusing on areas of pharmaceutical, biomedical and food engineering. She has been honored by the American Society of Engineering Education with several teaching awards such as the 2004 National Outstanding Teaching Medal and the 2005 Quinn Award for experiential learning. Stephanie has conducted workshops on a variety of topics including effective teaching, inductive teaching strategies and the use of experiments and demonstrations to enhance learning.

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This paper will describe a one‐semester study in which students in a course on material balances were required to write abstracts for homework problems.  Students were assigned weekly homework assignments which consisted of problems assigned from the course textbook.  Students completed the assignments in teams of three and submitted one solution per team.  However, in addition, each individual student was required to write an abstract for each problem.  In the abstracts, students summarized the purpose of the problem, the system under consideration, the known and unknown information and the solution procedure.  There were two purposes to assigning the abstracts.  First, it was hypothesized that requiring students to write about their problem solutions in a reflective way could foster a more thorough understanding of the processes being modeled, and instill in students a conscious recognition of effective problem‐solving strategies.  Second, it was hypothesized that the abstracts would provide an effective tool for assessing individual contributions to the team assignments.  The authors will present an assessment of the impact of the abstracts, specifically addressing the following questions:   Did students attain the learning objectives of the course more thoroughly than students in  previous cohorts, who completed the same homework problems in teams of the same size,  but who were not required to write abstracts?   Was there a correlation between the quality of a student’s abstracts and performance on  exams?   Was there a correlation between the quality of a student’s abstracts and the contribution of  that student to the team, as measured by peer evaluations?    

Dahm, K. D., & Farrell, S. (2013, June), Effects of Requiring Students to Write Abstracts for Homework Problem Solutions Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19481

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