Asee peer logo

Experiential Learning of Students through Prescriptive Laboratory Experiments Versus Open-ended Laboratory Assignments

Download Paper |


2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Instrumentation Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Akram Hossain Purdue University Northwest

visit author page

Akram Hossain, Purdue University Calumet
Akram Hossain is a professor in the department of Engineering Technology and Director of the Center for Packaging Machinery Industry at Purdue University Calumet, Hammond, IN. He worked eight years in industry at various capacities. He is working with Purdue University Calumet for the past 27 years. He consults for industry on process control, packaging machinery system design, control and related disciplines. He is a senior member of IEEE and he served in IEEE/Industry Application Society for 15 years at various capacities. He served as chair of Manufacturing Systems Development Applications Department (MSDAD) of IEEE/IAS. Currently, he is serving a two-year term as the chair of the Instrumentation of ASEE (American Society of Engineering Education). He authored over 32 refereed journal and conference publications. In 2009 he as PI received NSF-CCLI grant entitled A Mechatronics Curriculum and Packaging Automation Laboratory Facility. In 2010 he as Co-PI received NSF-ATE grant entitled Meeting Workforce Needs for Mechatronics Technicians. From 2003 through 2006, he was involved with Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL in developing direct computer control for hydrogen powered automotives. He is also involved in several direct computer control and wireless process control related research projects. His current interests are in the area of packaging machinery system design & control, industrial transducers, industrial process control systems, modeling and simulation of Mechatronics devices and systems in virtual environment, programmable logic controllers, programmable logic devices, renewable energy related projects, wireless controls, statistical process control, computer aided design and fabrication of printed circuit board.

visit author page


Mohammad A. Zahraee P.E. Purdue University Northwest

visit author page

Dr. Mohammad A. Zahraee is Professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology and Associate Dean for Graduate Studies in College of Technology at Purdue University Northwest. He holds Bachelor Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Southern Illinois University, MS in Structural Engineering and PhD in Engineering Mechanics, both from University of Illinois at Chicago. Mohammad joined Purdue University Calumet in 1989 and was the Head of the Manufacturing Engineering Technologies and Supervision Department from 1996 through 2007. He was also acting head of Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology Department from 2000 through December 2006. Mohammad is currently PI and Co-PI, working on several NSF and one DOL grant, totaling over three and half million dollars.
Zahraee served ABET from 1992 through 2010 as a program evaluator, commissioner (Accreditation Team Chair), as well as the Chair of the Engineering Technology accreditation commission of ABET during 2009-2010. He was a member of the ABET Board of Directors as a representative of American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) until October 2016. As the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies, Mohammad has been successful in making the MS in Technology program at Purdue University Northwest one of the largest in the U.S.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Abstract: Traditionally, at undergraduate level courses, experiential learning is performed through prescriptive laboratory experiments. Usually, there will be a laboratory manual having twelve to fifteen experiments written either by textbook author or by others. The laboratory manual will typically have the following format: Experiment Title, Objectives, Step by Step Procedure, Tables for writing collected data, Graph paper for plotting collected data, and Related Questions to answer by student in the final report. The process has been working for students for centuries not always without hiccups. Those hiccups mostly generated from different laboratory equipment, type’s parts used, different types software tools and their versions, and a few other unforeseen laboratory issues.

To improve creativity and critical thinking of students, authors of this paper have created a little variation to the above process. Instead of providing students with all they need, they are only provided with an experiment/assignment title and the objectives of the experimentation. Students are also provided help with available software and hardware tools that they need to perform any specific assignment. These helps do not include any step by step procedure, what data to collect, or even how to present them in the report. This process emulates a real world environment that a graduate would encounter in industry.

This paper will show and discuss how such laboratory process has provided several benefits for students, how students have come up with innovative solutions and approaches to the same problem, and how those solutions have been quite different from the authors own solution of the assignment. In addition, students with innovative solution were asked to present their solution to other students in the laboratory. The paper discusses how this later effort created a competitive environment that facilitates enhanced learning without pressure.

The paper also discusses how to improve student experiential learning by innovating solutions to problems such as limitation caused by number of hardware stations and variation in speed and skills of students while performing experiments. Finally, data is presented that proves the benefits of open ended and non-prescriptive assignments over the traditional approach.

Hossain, A., & Zahraee, M. A. (2019, June), Experiential Learning of Students through Prescriptive Laboratory Experiments Versus Open-ended Laboratory Assignments Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32794

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2019 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015