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Methods to Instill Critical Thinking in Environmental Engineering Students

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Enviromental Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1150.1 - 26.1150.10



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Paper Authors


Veera Gnaneswar Gude P.E. Mississippi State University

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Veera Gnaneswar Gude is an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Mississippi State University. He has degrees in chemical (B.S., 2000) and environmental engineering (M.S., 2004, Ph.D. 2007) disciplines. He has over 14 years of academic, industrial, and research experiences on various projects related to chemical and environmental engineering disciplines. He is the chair and board representative for American Solar Energy Society’s (ASES) Clean Energy and Water (CEW) Division. His research over the past 10 years has resulted in national and international recognition, industry collaborations, 5 patents/patent applications and over 75 scholarly publications in highly regarded discipline-specific journals, peer-reviewed conference proceedings and invited book chapters. He is a scientific and technical reviewer for over 50 international journals, book publishers, and several funding agencies. He is a licensed professional engineer in the state of New Mexico. His research interests include water and wastewater treatment, bioelectrochemical systems, desalination, algae, biofuels, and sustainability.

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Dennis D. Truax PE, BCEE, F.ASCE Mississippi State University

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Dr. Dennis D. Truax, P.E., BCEE, F.ASCE, is Head and Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Mississippi State University. He is in his ninth year as the James T. White Chair of Civil and Environmental Engineering and serves as Director of the Mississippi Transportation Research Center (MTRC). A member of the faculty for 34 years, he is a licensed professional engineer and board-certified environmental engineer. During his academic career, he has published over 100 refereed and reference papers and report and made almost 170 papers and poster presentations. While much of his externally-funded research has focused of environmental and water resources engineering, his work in the areas of education, transportation, and construction has included improving instructional processes in laboratories, delineation of roadway systems and NEPA compliance for highways using remotely-sense data, modeling highway evacuation strategies and environmental impacts for predicting pavement performance, evaluating resources and their allocation in the management of waterways, and comparing the economics of transportation management alternatives.

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CRITICAL THINKING AND ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING Veera Gnaneswar Gude* Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering Mississippi State University, Mississippi, MS 39762 e-mail:; Ph. 530-751-6061 Environmental engineers provide creative and cost-effective solutions to use resourcesefficiently, limit the release of residuals into the environment, develop sensitive techniques to trackpollutants once released and find effective methods to remediate impaired resources. They serveas the vital link between scientific discovery, technological development and the societal need forprotecting human health and ecological integrity. In the coming decades, environmental engineerswill increasingly be called upon to address broader and complex issues of environmentalsustainability. As such, it is urgent to train the emerging engineers with adequate critical thinkingskills. This presentation will discuss the various methods to instill the critical thinking skillsthrough environmental engineering courses. The exercises, student experiences and the mentorobservations will be discussed for two different environmental engineering courses namely “CE356 Fundamentals of Environmental Engineering”, a junior level course and “CE 4863 Water andWastewater Engineering – Principles and Design”, a senior level course from two different civilengineering programs. Among the many alternatives, technical writing, supplemental instruction(SI), and interactive and collaborative learning to design and solve the engineering problems wereimplemented as tools to enhance the critical thinking skills of the junior and senior civilengineering students. Through writing assignments, students develop written communication skills as well as aprocess for thinking through and solving civil-environmental engineering problems. Writingassignments are used to create a practical context that deepens their understanding andcomprehension of the content area. Active learning in the classroom and self-directed learningoutside of class create opportunities for the students to identify questions which can be resolved inthe SI session. Students follow a set of steps to develop proper questions and find solutions to theirown questions by applying critical thinking skills. The course also requires the students to exercisecritical thinking skills as it involves design oriented open-ended problem solving. The studentimprovement through the SI sessions has been monitored for three consecutive semesters.Comparisons have been made between the SI group and non-SI group students in terms ofacademic performance throughout the semester. Bloom’s levels of learning have been consideredto measure the student learning through critical thinking exercises. This presentation willsummarize our experiences and provide a critical perspective for discussion on enhancing criticalthinking skills in civil and environmental engineering curricula.

Gude, V. G., & Truax, D. D. (2015, June), Methods to Instill Critical Thinking in Environmental Engineering Students Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24487

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