Asee peer logo

Implementing Problem-solving Learning Environments in a Kinetics and Homogeneous Reactor Design Course

Download Paper |


2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

New Classrooms, New Challenges I: Novel Approaches to Courses

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.737.1 - 25.737.11



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Ramirez Apud Lopez Zaira Universidad de las Américas Puebla

visit author page

Zaira Ramírez is Science, Engineering, and Technology Education Ph.D. Student at Universidad de las Americas Puebla in Mexico. She teaches ethics and development complex thinking skills related courses. Her research interests include faculty development, outcomes assessment, and creating effective learning environments.

visit author page


Nelly Ramirez-Corona Universidad de las Americas, Puebla

visit author page

Nelly Ramírez-Corona is currently a full-time professor of chemical engineering at the Chemical, Environmental, and Food Engineering Department, Universidad de las Americas, Puebla, México. Her teaching experience is in the areas of process dynamics and control, kinetics, catalysis, and reactor design. Her research interests are in the field of process systems engineering, and include the analysis and design of thermally coupled and alternative distillation configurations, the design of nonideal distillation systems, and the synthesis, optimization, and control of chemical process with reaction and recycles streams.

visit author page


Aurelio Lopez-Malo Universidad de las Americas, Puebla

visit author page

Aurelio Lopez-Malo is Professor and Past Chair, Department of Chemical, Food, and Environmental Engineering at Universidad de las Americas, Puebla, in Mexico. He teaches food science and engineering-related courses. His research interests include emerging technologies for food processing, natural antimicrobials, and active learning

visit author page


Enrique Palou Universidad de las Americas, Puebla

visit author page

Professor Palou is Director, Center for Science, Engineering, and Technology Education in the Department of Chemical, Food, and Environmental Engineering at Universidad de las Americas, Puebla, in Mexico. He teaches engineering, food science, and education-related courses. His research interests include emerging technologies for food processing, creating effective learning environments, using tablet PCs and associated technologies to enhance the development of 21st century expertise in engineering students, and building rigorous research capacity in science, engineering, and technology education.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Implementing Problem-Solving Learning Environments in a Kinetics and Homogeneous Reactor Design CourseThe main task of a chemical engineer is to design and operate processes to transform rawmaterials into final products, particularly by the exploitation of chemical reactions at industrialscale. Reactor operation is at the heart of many chemical processes, while other unit operationsand equipment are necessary to prepare the reactants for the reactor conditions or to separate thedifferent components from the reactor effluent. For proper reactor design, chemical kinetics andreactor engineering must be considered. Chemical kinetics study chemical reaction rates, whichmust be obtained from experimental measurements; reactor engineering defines the type and sizeof the device within which the reaction occurs and its operating conditions (temperature,pressure, and the energy exchange with the surroundings) to achieve a reaction specific goal. AtABC University chemical engineering (ChE) students develop the knowledge and skills todesign and operate chemical reactors in the senior course entitled Kinetics and HomogeneousReactor Design (IQ-407), which outcomes include that students will be able to: a) determinereaction rate expressions obtained from experimental data; b) use basic concepts of kinetics,mass and energy balances, as well as principles from thermodynamics to design idealhomogeneous reactors; and c) asses and propose reactor operation conditions to achieve aspecific objective.Practicing engineers are hired, retained, and rewarded for solving problems. Thus, engineeringstudents should learn how to solve workplace problems [1]. In general, workplace engineeringproblems are substantively different from the kinds of problems that engineering students mostoften solve in the classroom; therefore, learning to solve classroom problems does notnecessarily prepare engineering students to solve workplace problems [1, 2]. Therefore, wedesigned and implemented several problem-solving learning environments (a term thatrepresents problem-solving instruction in a more open-ended way than problem-based learning)for the IQ-407 course.Problems vary in different ways, so different kinds of problems call on different conceptions andskills [1-3]. Based on those differences among problems, different kinds of IQ-407 problemswere developed such as story problems, decision-making problems, troubleshooting, strategicperformance problems, and design problems. Since there exist different kinds of problems,which call on different skills, learning methods should also vary [2, 3]. That is why specialattention was given to the building blocks (cases) of our problem-solving learning environments(PSLEs), since the intellectual functions of cases vary and consequently they support differentkinds of problem solving [2, 3]. We will describe in detail the cognitive skills that are required tosolve the implemented problems in our PSLEs, how the practice and transfer of these cognitiveskills were applied, how we included metacognitive strategies, as well as several methods forassessing student problem-solving ability and cognitive skills that were required to solve testedproblems. The initial implementation of the PSLEs in IQ-407 was exploratory, intended toprovide formative evaluation. The primary data source was an in-depth interview with 4 of thestudents at the end of this initial implementation.[1] Jonassen, D. H., Strobel, J., and Lee, C. B. 2006. Everyday problem solving in engineering: Lessons for engineering educators. Journal of Engineering Education, 95(2): 1–14.[2] Jonassen, D. H. 2011. Learning to Solve Problems: A Handbook for Designing Problem- Solving Learning Environments. Routledge: New York.[3] Jonassen, D. H. 2010. Assembling and Analyzing the Building Blocks of Problem-Based Learning Environments, in Handbook of Improving Performance in the Workplace, Volume One: Instructional Design and Training Delivery (K. H. Silber and W. R. Foshay, eds.), John Wiley & Sons: Hoboken, NJ.

Zaira, R. A. L., & Ramirez-Corona, N., & Lopez-Malo, A., & Palou, E. (2012, June), Implementing Problem-solving Learning Environments in a Kinetics and Homogeneous Reactor Design Course Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21494

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: © 2012 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