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Increasing the Spirality of Material and Energy Balances

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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

Chemical Engineering Poster Session

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.770.1 - 25.770.4



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Paper Authors


S. Patrick Walton Michigan State University

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S. Patrick Walton is an Associate Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at Michigan State University and Director of the College of Engineering CoRe Experience. He received his B.ChE. from Georgia Tech and a M.S. (chemical engineering practice) and Sc.D. from the Department of Chemical Engineering at MIT. Professor Walton's research is focused on nucleic acid biotechnology.

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Amanda Portis Malefyt Michigan State University

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Amanda Malefyt is currently a graduate student in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science and a member of the Future Academic Scholars in Teaching (FAST) Fellowship program at Michigan State University. She received her bachelor’s degree from Trine (formerly Tri-State) University. Her research interests include engineering education and nucleic acid therapeutics.

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Increasing the Spirality of Material and Energy BalancesIt is often the case that students in the material and energy balances coursecannot keep up with the rate of the course, in particular as it evolves fromsimple systems with only material balances to complex systems consisting ofsimultaneous material and energy balances. As the basic goal of the courseis learning chemical engineering problem solving, a principal means ofpracticing and learning the techniques is repeated attempts at problemsolving with feedback. However, it is typical that students do not beginassigned homework until it is well too late to complete it correctly. As such,these students never get the chance to reach the level of mastery that wewould desire before moving on to more difficult topics. Moreover, with theready access that most students have to the solutions manuals fortextbooks, it is often difficult to judge the understanding of the studentsfrom completed homework. Finally, it is too rare that any feedback thestudents receive on completed homework is received in a timely fashion andreviewed by the student.We sought to address this by restructuring the assignment of homework andleveraging the online homework for material and energy balances availablethrough Sapling Learning, Inc.. This on-line system provides students withscaffolding in the form of hints and allows students to enter multiple answersuntil they have gotten the question correct, albeit with reduced credit foreach answer after the first. In this way, the online system drives thestudents towards mastery learning rather than simply strategies to maximizepartial credit.The restructured homework process was as follows. Homework from thetextbook was assigned initially and was due prior to the material beingdiscussed in lecture. Thus, students had to rely on the textbook, theprofessor and TA, and collaboration with their colleagues to get solutions.This homework was graded according to a scale of 0, check-minus, check,check-plus. Any paper not turned in or of insufficient effort, quality, orcompleteness received a score of 0. Anyone who received a score of 0 didnot get credit for the subsequent online homework assignment, which wasdue after the material was discussed in lecture.While not eliminating the utility of solutions manuals for those completingthe textbook homework, we felt that this grading approach would mitigatetheir use, because students did not have to get all of the answers correct toget credit. Thus, incomplete or incorrect assignments, as long as sufficienteffort was made, did not impact their course grade. Moreover, with thisstructure, the students now cover the same material three times during thecourse, twice with formative assessment (including problem solvingexercises during lecture periods), and the final time with summativeassessment. We felt that the enhanced spirality from this homeworkstructure would improve learning of the material. We will examine studentperformance and attitude metrics at the end of the Fall semester to assesswhether this approach to was successful and viewed favorably by thestudents.Any type of session would be fine.

Walton, S. P., & Malefyt, A. P. (2012, June), Increasing the Spirality of Material and Energy Balances Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21527

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