Asee peer logo

Making the Case: Adding Case Studies to an Environmental Engineering Laboratory to Increase Student Engagement, Learning, and Data Analysis

Download Paper |


2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Environmental Engineering Division: Engagement, Experiential Learning, and Balance

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Stephanie Luster-Teasley North Carolina A&T State University

visit author page

Dr. Stephanie Luster-Teasley is an Associate Professor with a joint appointment in the Departments of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering, and Chemical, Biological, and Bioengineering. Over the last ten years, Dr. Luster-Teasley has demonstrated excellence in teaching by using a variety of research-based, student-centered, pedagogical methods to increase diversity in STEM. Her teaching and engineering education work has resulted in her receiving the 2013 UNC Board of Governors Teaching Excellence Award, which is the highest teaching award conferred by the UNC system for faculty. In 2014, she was also the recipient of the ASEE Dupont Minorities in Engineering Award.

visit author page


Sirena C. Hargrove-Leak Elon University

visit author page

Sirena Hargrove-Leak is an Associate Professor in the Dual-Degree Engineering Program at Elon University in Elon, NC. The mission and commitment of Elon University have led her to explore the scholarship of teaching and learning in engineering and service-learning as a means of engineering outreach. Hargrove-Leak is an active member of the American Society for Engineering Education. With all of her formal education in chemical engineering, she also has interests in heterogeneous catalysis for fine chemical and pharmaceutical applications and membrane separations.

visit author page


Willietta Gibson

visit author page

Dr. Willietta Gibson, a native of Durham, North Carolina, is an Assistant Professor of Biology at Bennett College. She received her B.S degree in Molecular Biology from Winston-Salem State University and Ph.D. in Biomedical Science from the Medical University of South Carolina. She also completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Biomanufacturing Research Institute and Technology Enterprise (BRITE) at North Carolina Central University (NCCU) where she examined the sensitivity of inflammatory breast cancer cells to commercially available inhibitors of the sonic hedgehog signal transduction pathway. Dr. Gibson’s research interests include breast cancer health disparities amongst African-American women, natural products as chemopreventive agents in breast cancer and undergraduate STEM education. Dr. Gibson has taught Principles of Biology I and II, Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy, Human Biology, Zoology and Biotechnology. She has a deep passion for teaching, helping others to learn, mentoring and increasing the number of underrepresented minorities entering into STEM graduate programs.

visit author page

Download Paper |


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

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2016 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015