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Problem-Solving Learning Environments for an Introduction to Food Engineering Course

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

International Division Poster Session

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

23.986.1 - 23.986.15

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Paper Authors


Tammara Ramírez Universidad de las Americas Puebla

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Tammara Ramrez is a Science, Engineering, and Technology Education Ph.D. student at Universidad de las Americas Puebla in Mexico. She teaches ethics and development complex thinking skills related courses.
Her research interests include faculty development, outcomes assessment, and creating effective learning environments.

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Aurelio Lopez-Malo Universidad de las Americas Puebla


Enrique Palou Universidad de las Americas Puebla

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Professor Palou is director of the Center for Science, Engineering, and Technology Education in the Department of Chemical, Food, and Environmental Engineering at Universidad de las Americas Puebla in Mexico. He teaches engineering, food science, and education related courses. His research interests include emerging technologies for food processing, creating effective learning environments, using tablet PCs and associated technologies to enhance the development of 21st century expertise in engineering students, and building rigorous research capacity in science, engineering and technology education.

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Problem-Solving Learning Environments for an Introduction to Food Engineering CourseThe main task of a food engineer is to design and operate processes to transform raw materialsinto final products, particularly with the aim to control, prevent, or delay spoilage caused bychemical reactions, physical effects, and/or biological activity. At ABC University foodengineering (FE) students develop the knowledge and skills required to function in the differentfields of FE, distinguish the main factors responsible for food spoilage and deterioration andcombine theory and practice for the preservation of representative food products in the first-semester course entitled Introduction to Food Engineering, which outcomes include that studentswill be able to: a) identify the major components of food and the factors responsible fordeterioration during storage, b) identify the main technologies available for food processing, c)identify the nutritional needs of humans, d) explain how processing operations affect the stabilityof foods, e) distinguish the role of microorganisms in the stability and safety of food, and f)explain how to maintain or to assess food quality.Problem solving is an essential 21st century skill, specifically the ability to solve different kindsof problems and to identify and ask significant questions1. Research has shown that knowledgeconstructed in the context of solving problems is better comprehended, retained, and thereforemore transferable2-4. Therefore, we designed and implemented some problem-solving learningenvironments (PSLEs) for the studied course. In this first semester introductory course isintended that students have a vision of what will be their undergraduate studies and futureprofessional life. Through the incorporation of PSLEs the course pretends to recognize andevaluate the proposed outcomes through the progress of solutions posed by the students.Problems vary in different ways, so different kinds of problems call on different conceptions andskills2-4. Based on those differences among problems, different kinds of food engineeringproblems were developed such as story problems, decision-making problems, andtroubleshooting/diagnosis problems. In the full paper, we will describe in detail the cognitiveskills3 that are required to solve the implemented problems in our PSLEs, how the practice andtransfer of these cognitive skills were applied, how we included metacognitive strategies, as wellas several methods for assessing student problem-solving ability and cognitive skills that wererequired to solve tested problems3, 4.The initial implementation of the PSLEs in the studied course was exploratory, intended toprovide formative evaluation. The primary data source was an in-depth interview with 10 of thestudents at the end of this initial implementation. Furthermore, in order to evaluate studenttransfer of learning, a final project involving a decision-making problem (students had to identifydietary deficiencies of different people and generate proposals for improving their health) wasimplemented. The vast majority of students reported to be very or highly committed with thisproject; 57% of students constructed coherent explanations about the outcomes of each optionthey followed, precisely explained their thought process as well as the project purpose and stepsfollowed to solve the project, while 29% of students recognized only part of these, and 14% ofstudents did not clearly recognized their decision-making processes to support their choices3.[1] The Partnership for 21st Century Skills. 2012. 21st Century Skills Framework. Available (September 18, 2012) at[2] Jonassen, D. H., Strobel, J., and Lee, C. B. 2006. Everyday problem solving in engineering: Lessons for engineering educators. Journal of Engineering Education, 95(2): 1–14.[3] Jonassen, D. H. 2011. Learning to Solve Problems: A Handbook for Designing Problem- Solving Learning Environments. Routledge: New York.[4] Jonassen, D. H. 2010. Assembling and Analyzing the Building Blocks of Problem-Based Learning Environments, in Handbook of Improving Performance in the Workplace, Volume One: Instructional Design and Training Delivery (K. H. Silber and W. R. Foshay, eds.), John Wiley & Sons: Hoboken, NJ.

Ramírez, T., & Lopez-Malo, A., & Palou, E. (2013, June), Problem-Solving Learning Environments for an Introduction to Food Engineering Course Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia.

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