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Promoting Metacognition through Writing Exercises in Chemical Engineering

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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

Chemical Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1276.1 - 26.1276.16



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Paper Authors

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Mariajose Castellanos University of Maryland, Baltimore County

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Joshua A Enszer University of Maryland, Baltimore County

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Promoting Metacognition through Writing Exercises in Chemical EngineeringA high-level goal of all disciplines is for students to develop the capacity for lifelong learning. To developthe capacity of lifelong learning, the overall educative environment should not only include guidance throughspecific material or actions/experiences to own the material, but additionally students should immerse intoself-knowledge. The idea of “writing to learn” has been investigated in education courses (Fry &Villagomez, 2012), and preliminary findings suggest that there may be no change in student success in thecourse in which it is implemented, but that students develop an appreciation for self-reflective writing on topof the usual course goals. In this paper we will present the effects of reflective writing in a technical setting.This study includes two chemical engineering core courses. The first is chemical engineeringthermodynamics, that includes material perceived as seemingly unintuitive, making it a challenge for novicesto understand. At our institution, student feedback for the past several years included complaints abouthaving to “know” too many equations, the existence of an apparent disconnect between theory and real worldexamples, and a textbook they do not enjoy using. This led us to introduce reflective writing inthermodynamics (fall of 2012) through weekly reflection paragraphs were students wrote a 200 wordreflection paragraph based on questions that prompted them to think about: what they thought they learned,how they learned, what was their inspiration to learn, and how reflective writing helped them through theprocess. We then evaluated the quality of reflection paragraphs and looked into any relationships with coursegrades We found a statistically significant correlation between this quality and final course grades [referenceremoved for blind review]. For the spring of 2013, we continued the promotion of metacognition inchemical process control and safety, another undergraduate chemical engineering core course using amodified assignment. Students were given one technical problem and then assigned the following fouractivities each week: a) solve the problem, b) personalize the problem, c) integrate problem with otherchemical engineering courses, and d) think of a related problem. In this paper we will present the analysis ofthis valuable data set of student reflections as we seek to more deeply analyze students reflective writing interms of (1) the specific technical content discussed and (2) the way the student engaged with the content, itsconnections to other ideas, and their own understanding (“thinking about thinking,” or metacognition).ReferencesFry, S. W., & Villagomez, A. (2012). Writing to Learn: Benefits and Limitations. College Teaching , 170-175.Simpson, N. (2012). Helping Students Become Reflective Learners. Wakonse Conference for CollegeTeaching. Shelby, MI.Zubizarreta, J. (2009). The Learning Portfolio: Reflective Practice for Improving Student Learning. SanFrancisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Castellanos, M., & Enszer, J. A. (2015, June), Promoting Metacognition through Writing Exercises in Chemical Engineering Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24613

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