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Raising The Level Of Questioning In The Undergraduate Che Curriculum

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.435.1 - 4.435.12



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Anthony J. Muscat

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

Session 2213

Raising the Level of Questioning in the Undergraduate ChE Curriculum

Anthony J. Muscat Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering University of Arizona Tucson, AZ 85721


Planned class discussion based on the Socratic method was used to teach undergraduate chemical engineering thermodynamics and chemical reactor design courses at the University of Arizona. The primary objective of the class discussions was to develop critical thinking skills. A combination of outside and inside of class elements was used to try and create the most favorable setting for in-class discussions. The questions were chosen by the professor and planned ahead of lecture to uncover how to approach problems and derive insights. Two discussions varying in length from five to ten minutes were planned for each class meeting. When asked on self-assessments, students found this learning approach unsettling because they were put on the spot and felt embarrassed if they could not give what they believed was a correct answer. Nevertheless, students found value in practicing verbal skills and in being guided. The discussions gave the professor an opportunity to quickly change the pace and mode of learning in the classroom, to personally interact with each student several times over the span of a semester, and to guide students interactively. The average scores on exam problems that required higher level thinking skills was 70-80% which is in the same range as the average scores on knowledge-based problems. The exam results provide some measure that higher level thinking skills were improved.

I. Introduction

There are several innovative techniques at various stages of development to improve the level of instruction and the involvement of students in engineering education. Many of these techniques are summarized in the excellent text entitled “Teaching Engineering” by Wankat and Oreovicz 1. Many of the latest experiments and results with these techniques in engineering can be found in the proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education and the Frontiers in Education conferences of the past few years. The teaching technique with perhaps the longest recorded history that started far afield of engineering is the Socratic method found in the dialogs of Plato (see especially the Meno). The Socratic method uses a series of questions to discover truth. Socrates, the teacher, poses questions to his protagonist, the student, and the ensuing discussion uncovers truths already possessed by the student. Discussion in engineering education is usually done in small groups outside of the classroom, for example, on a design team or for a homework assignment. In most engineering classes, discussions are usually initiated by a student asking a question or are reserved for small cooperative groups involved in problem solving. This paper describes both outside and inside of class elements that have been beneficial in conducting regular, planned class discussions in two core chemical engineering courses, solution

Muscat, A. J. (1999, June), Raising The Level Of Questioning In The Undergraduate Che Curriculum Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina. 10.18260/1-2--7908

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