New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Case studies are innovative ways to increase student engagement in courses. Used extensively in medical and law schools, case studies introduce real-world examples that can help students readily see how theory applies to actual events, situations, and the end results. This educational study began in 2010 to investigate the use of case studies in an environmental engineering laboratory course. Four environmental engineering case studies combined with laboratory activities were developed for a junior level environmental engineering course. The cases were added to the laboratory course as a way to update laboratory content with contemporary themes, real world examples, and new topics such as sustainability. The rationale for implementing the cases within a traditional laboratory was to determine if the cases impacted student engagement; helped students to see the link between laboratory exercises and real world applications; increased student’s critical thinking levels above the lower levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy of knowledge and comprehension for their experimental data; and improved the quality of student laboratory reports. The new cases developed addressed: 1) E-waste to teach environmental ethics and statistical analysis of data, 2) the 2014 Duke Coal Ash Spill in North Carolina to teach physical and chemical water quality and treatment; 3) a Confined Animal Feeding Operations water contamination case to teach biological impacts to water quality and microbial quantification; and 4) Green buildings to teach sustainable engineering concepts. For this study, two laboratory courses were studied. A control group of students experienced a traditional lab and was compared to an intervention group where cases were used with each laboratory experiment. Quantitative and quantitative assessments included a survey to assess student impression of the use of cases in a laboratory course, focus groups with students, and evaluation of student lab reports for quality and content by two external reviewers. Student learning styles were also assessed using the Index of Learning Styles Survey (ILSS) by Felder and Solomon. The ILSS instrument can be used to assess student learning styles of active/reflective, sensing/intuitive, visual/verbal and sequential/global before instruction of the case study. The results confirm that the majority of the students were active, sensing, visual and sequential learners. These characteristics are ideal for the use of cases and hands-on interactive instruction. Overall students found the use of cases more engaging and the cases elevated their interest in laboratory discussions and course content. External evaluation of the student reports suggest that the use of cases did not significantly improve the quality of the student laboratory reports, however, student interpretation and analysis of data slightly improved.
Luster-Teasley, S., & Hargrove-Leak, S. C., & Gibson, W. (2016, June), Making the Case: Adding Case Studies to an Environmental Engineering Laboratory to Increase Student Engagement, Learning, and Data Analysis Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25669
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