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Inquiry-Based Activities to Address Critical Concepts in Chemical Engineering

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.885.1 - 22.885.6



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Paper Authors


Margot A. Vigeant Bucknell University

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Margot is an associate professor of chemical engineering and associate dean in the college of engineering. She is interested in improving students' conceptual understanding in thermodynamics, as well as in creative ways of engaging first-year students and broadening participation in engineering as a whole.

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Michael J. Prince Bucknell University


Katharyn E. K. Nottis Bucknell University

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Katharyn E. K. Nottis is an associate professor in the Education department at Bucknell University. An Educational Psychologist, her research has focused on meaningful learning in science and engineering education, approached from the perspective of Human Constructivism. She has been involved in collaborative research projects focused on conceptual learning in chemistry, seismology, and chemical engineering.

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Ronald L. Miller Colorado School of Mines

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Dr. Ronald L. Miller is professor of chemical engineering and Director of the Center for Engineering Education at the Colorado School of Mines where he has taught chemical engineering and interdisciplinary courses and conducted engineering education research for the past 25 years. Dr. Miller has received three university-wide teaching awards and has held a Jenni teaching fellowship at CSM. He has received grant awards for education research from the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education FIPSE program, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education and has published widely in the engineering education literature. His research interests include measuring and repairing engineering student misconceptions in thermal and transport science.

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It  is  widely  agreed  that  a  conceptual  understanding  of  engineering  concepts  is  a  required  compliment  to  a  technical  understanding  of  the  equations  and  how  to  solve  them.    However,  students  often  enter  our  classrooms  with  misconceptions  about  fundamental  phenomena,  presenting  a  significant  obstacle  to  conceptual  learning.    The  first  part  of  our  work  consisted  of  establishing  reliability  of  instruments  to  assess  conceptual  understanding.    In  the  present  study,  we  share  results  from  multi-­‐institution  concept  inventory  assessments  in  heat  transfer  and  thermodynamics.    Our  results  indicate  that  instruction  typically  improves  students’  conceptual  understanding  in  these  areas,  but  not  typically  to  “proficient”  levels  (concept  inventory  scores  over  70%).    However,  after  implementation  of  inquiry-­‐based  activities,  scores  improve  significantly,  both  with  respect  to  the  pre-­‐course  concept  inventory  scores  and  with  respect  to  post-­‐course  scores  for  students  who  do  not  perform  these  activities.      

Vigeant, M. A., & Prince, M. J., & Nottis, K. E. K., & Miller, R. L. (2011, June), Inquiry-Based Activities to Address Critical Concepts in Chemical Engineering Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18186

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