June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Early chemical engineering coursework provides an important foundation in topics such as energy and material balances and a common pedagogical approach to these topics includes providing engineering analysis problems with basic context and a single correct answer. While this approach can help students develop mastery of content, it does not help students develop an understanding of authentic engineering practices, especially design problem framing and solving. Without this aspect, we risk losing students from underrepresented groups in engineering as they are less likely to have engineering relatives and friends who can help them see the real-world relevance of what they are doing in their early coursework.
We present a balanced approach to threading a community-based, entrepreneurial design challenge throughout the semester, focused on algal biofuel production. Participants include students (N=126) enrolled in two cohorts of a sophomore-level Chemical Process Calculations course at a large minority-serving research university in the American Southwest. For both cohorts, students worked in teams on homework assignments, and the class met in a learning studio style classroom for three 50-minute lecture sessions and one 50-minute recitation session per week. For the second cohort, we replaced six homework assignments with design challenge assignments; students worked in subteams on one of three production phases (i.e., growth, harvesting, extraction). They developed individual accountability through jigsaw sessions in which they explained their subteam’s work to students from other production phases. They built whole-class consensus through “parley” sessions that involved decision matrices.
We describe the design challenge and our study, which investigated the following broad questions: 1) To what extent can a design challenge threaded through a sophomore course provide students with a picture of authentic engineering design practices? 2) How do parley and jigsaw sessions support student learning and engagement in managing the complexity of framing and solving a design challenge?
Students completed pre/post assessments of their design experiences, beliefs, self-efficacy and problem framing ability. We video recorded one class session in cohort 1 and four class sessions in cohort 2. We analyzed quantitative data statistically (descriptives, tests of difference, regression) and used interaction analysis for the video records .
Students in cohort 2 developed significantly more in their problem framing ability, and still made gains in their content understanding. We found that students were engaged within their table-teams in both cohorts. In cohort 2, we additionally observed students making requests for their colleagues to back their work with citations, arguing from evidence, and making clear connections between engineering content and application.
This balanced approach provided all students with opportunities to understand engineering design practices as an iterative process without sacrificing core course content.
References 1. Jordan, B. and A. Henderson, Interaction Analysis: Foundations and Practice. Journal of the Learning Sciences, 1995. 4(1): p. 39-103.
Gomez, J., & Svihla, V., & Datye, A. K. (2017, June), Jigsaws & Parleys: Strategies for engaging sophomore level students as a learning community Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28597
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