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Paper: Exploring How Undergraduate Chemical Engineering Students Spend Their Time Inside and Outside of the Classroom (WIP)

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Student Division Technical Session 5

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Alaa Abdalla Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Alaa Abdalla is a first year PhD student in Engineering Education with a background in Mechanical Engineering. Her primary research interests are culture and identity, teaching and learning, and design of learning spaces. Her ultimate career goal is to bring together engineering, education, and design thinking.

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Nicole P. Pitterson Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Nicole is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. Prior to joining VT, Dr. Pitterson was a postdoctoral scholar at Oregon State University. She holds a PhD in Engineering Education from Purdue University and other degrees in Manufacturing Engineering from Western Illinois University and a B.Sc. in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the University of Technology, Jamaica. Her research interests are exploring students' disciplinary identity through engagement with knowledge, curriculum design, assessment and evaluation and teaching for conceptual understanding.

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Jennifer M Case Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Jennifer Case is Head and Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. She holds an honorary position at the University of Cape Town. Her research on the student experience of learning, focusing mainly on science and engineering education, has been published across a range of journal articles in higher education and her recent book, Researching student learning in higher education: A social realist approach published in 2013 by Routledge. She holds an academic development post in the Department of Chemical Engineering at UCT, and teaches in the undergraduate programme there. She is a coordinating editor for the international journal Higher Education and a co-editor for the Routledge/SRHE series Research into Higher Education.

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This is a work in progress. Time is one of the most valuable resources that human beings have. Time becomes especially important during a student’s undergraduate experience as they try to navigate that important stage in their lives. Faced with new responsibilities and a range of extracurricular activities to choose from, as well as busy class schedules, students may feel that they ‘don’t have time’ to dedicate to everything that they want to. There are many reasons that may be contributing to that problem, but the main purpose of this paper is not to discover the reason more than to better understand the problem itself. This study is aiming to take a close-up look at how engineering students distribute their time between in-class and out-of-class activities. Particularly, we will be looking at how students dedicate time to studying, how their time is spent in lectures and in labs, and how their time balances overall between in-class and out-of-class activities.

Data for the study were collected from in-depth interviews with ten chemical engineering students at a public land-grant U.S. institution, conducted both in the first and second years of their studies. This data is part of a larger longitudinal study that tracks chemical engineering students in six institutions across three countries for four years. For the qualitative analysis, thematic coding was used. The themes were centered on students’ responses on how they used their time during a given week both inside and outside of the classroom.

Preliminary results show how students might not consider assignments required for the classroom as an important part of their studying. Students tended to differentiate between time dedicated to studying from time dedicated to completing assignments. Also, students expressed how a big portion of their time is dedicated to practical labs. Lastly, we noticed how the structure of the curriculum might affect the amount of time students have outside of the class. The students who had all of their classes consecutively felt that their time is more balanced between in-class and out-of-class. Insights from this study can be used by educators to better structure their class time, and for institutions to think about flexibility of the engineering curriculum.

Abdalla, A., & Pitterson, N. P., & Case, J. M. (2020, June), Paper: Exploring How Undergraduate Chemical Engineering Students Spend Their Time Inside and Outside of the Classroom (WIP) Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35032

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