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Jigsaws & Parleys: Strategies for engaging sophomore level students as a learning community

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Early ChemE Education

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Jamie Gomez University of New Mexico

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Jamie Gomez, Ph.D., is a Lecturer Title III in the department of Chemical & Biological Engineering (CBE) at the University of New Mexico. She is a co- Principal Investigator for the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded Professional Formation of Engineers: Research Initiation in Engineering Formation (PFE: RIEF) for the project- Using Digital Badging and Design Challenge Modules to Develop Professional Identity. She is a member of the department’s ABET and Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, as well as faculty advisor for several student societies. She is the instructor of several courses in the CBE curriculum including the Material and Energy Balances, junior laboratories and Capstone Design courses. She is associated with several professional organizations including the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE) and American Society of Chemical Engineering Education (ASEE) where she adopts and contributes to innovative pedagogical methods aimed at improving student learning and retention.

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Vanessa Svihla University of New Mexico Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Vanessa Svihla is a learning scientist and assistant professor at the University of New Mexico in the Organization, Information & Learning Sciences program, and in the Chemical & Biological Engineering Department. She served as Co-PI on an NSF RET Grant and a USDA NIFA grant, and is currently co-PI on three NSF-funded projects in engineering and computer science education, including a Revolutionizing Engineering Departments project. She was selected as a National Academy of Education / Spencer Postdoctoral Fellow. Dr. Svihla studies learning in authentic, real world conditions; this includes a two-strand research program focused on (1) authentic assessment, often aided by interactive technology, and (2) design learning, in which she studies engineers designing devices, scientists designing investigations, teachers designing learning experiences and students designing to learn.

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Abhaya K. Datye University of New Mexico

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Abhaya Datye has been on the faculty at the University of New Mexico after receiving his PhD in Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan in 1984. He is presently Chair of the department and Distinguished Regents Professor of Chemical & Biological Engineering. From 1994-2014 he served as Director of the Center for Microengineered Materials, a strategic research center at UNM that reports to the Vice President for Research. He is also the founding director of the graduate interdisciplinary program in Nanoscience and Microsystems, the first program at UNM to span three schools and colleges and the Anderson Business School. He served as director of this program from 2007 – 2014. His research interests are in heterogeneous catalysis, materials characterization and nanomaterials synthesis. His research group has pioneered the development of electron microscopy tools for the study of catalysts.

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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 [1].

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. 10.18260/1-2--28597

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