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Non Traditional Courses For Applying Stem Knowledge

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

ChE: Innovations in the Classroom

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.1109.1 - 12.1109.13



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Paper Authors


Timothy Raymond Bucknell University

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Tim received his BS in Chemical Engineering from Bucknell University in 1997 and his PhD from Carnegie Mellon University in 2002. He has taught a variety of courses since starting at Bucknell in 2002. He is interested in improving student learning by directing students to discover their own misconceptions and to learn new material by teaching and 'doing'.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Non-Traditional Courses for Applying STEM Knowledge


Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) courses traditionally teach fundamental concepts but seldom allow students to widely apply that knowledge. Ideally, students should have ample opportunities to apply previous course content to new courses, areas, and problems. The purpose of this paper is to describe two elective courses designed for science and engineering majors in their junior or senior year of a STEM program. The first course described, Atmospheric Chemistry & Physics, has been successfully implemented for four semesters while being continuously revised. The second course is in the design stage and will be ready for implementation in the next academic year. For both courses, the approach has been to create a technical course that combines content from math, physics, chemistry, and introductory engineering courses and presents the content in a variety of ways utilizing several pedagogical ‘best practices’. New course content for the subject area is introduced by way of applying previously learned material to novel problems outside of traditional courses. Assessments indicate that this approach has been successful in meeting its objectives.


Typical courses in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) traditionally teach fundamental concepts but seldom allow students to widely apply that knowledge or see the wide application possibilities. This often leads to students compartmentalizing course content and to believe that after the final exam, they are ready to ‘move on’ to the next course. A typical curriculum then can become a series of seemingly unrelated courses (in the student’s mind) that are often only connected in a senior capstone or design course. Even the typical senior capstone course usually limits the application aspects directly to the students’ major and to what is considered mainstream or directly related to the discipline. Ideally, however, students should have ample opportunities to integrate and apply previous course content to new courses, areas, and problems. This should include interdisciplinary concepts and areas that may be considered non-traditional for a particular major. The courses described in this paper were designed to take advantage of proven pedagogical methods to improve student learning.

In the book How People Learn1, the authors arrive at several important findings including:

o Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the world works. If their initial understanding is not engaged, they may fail to grasp new concepts and information presented in the classroom, or they may learn them for purposes of a test but revert to their preconceptions outside the classroom. This finding requires that teachers be prepared to draw out their students' existing understandings and help to shape them into an understanding that reflects the concepts and knowledge in the particular discipline of study. o To develop competence in an area of learning, students must have both a deep foundation of factual knowledge and a strong conceptual framework.

Raymond, T. (2007, June), Non Traditional Courses For Applying Stem Knowledge Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--1716

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