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Reducing Costs While Maintaining Learning Outcomes using Blended, Flipped, and Mastery Pedagogy to Teach Introduction to Environmental Engineering

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Environmental Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

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Paper Authors


Daniel B. Oerther Missouri University of Science & Technology Orcid 16x16

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Professor Daniel B. Oerther, PhD, PE, BCEE, CEng, F.AAN joined the faculty of the Missouri University of Science and Technology in 2010 after ten years on the faculty of the University of Cincinnati where he served as Head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Since 2014, he has concurrently served as a Senior Policy Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State in the areas of environment, science, technology, and health (ESTH). Oerther earned his B.A. in biological sciences and his B.S. in environmental health engineering from Northwestern University (1995), and he earned his M.S. (1998) in environmental health engineering and his Ph.D. (2002) from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He has completed postgraduate coursework in Microbial Ecology from the Marine Biology Laboratory, in Public Health from The Johns Hopkins University, and Public Administration from Indiana University, Bloomington. Oerther is a licensed Professional Engineer (PE, Ohio), Board Certified in Environmental Engineering (BCEE) by the American Academy of Environmental Engineers and Scientist (AAEES), and registered as a Chartered Engineer (CEng) by the U.K. Engineering Council. His scholarship, teaching, service, and professional practice focus in the fields of environmental biotechnology and sustainable development where he specializes in promoting Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WaSH), food and nutrition security, and poverty alleviation. Oerther's awards for teaching include the best paper award from the Environmental Engineering Division of ASEE, as well as recognition from the NSPE, the AAEES, and the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors (AEESP). He participated in both the 2006 and the 2015 conferences of the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative (NAKFI) as well as the 2011 Frontiers of Engineering Education Symposium (FOEE) of the U.S. National Academies. Oerther is a four-time recipient of Fulbright, and he has been recognized with a Meritorious Honor Award by the U.S. Department of State. Due to his collaborations with nurses and healthcare professionals, Professor Oerther has been inducted as a Lifetime Honorary Member of Sigma Theta Tau, the International Honor Society of Nursing (STTI), and he has been inducted as a Lifetime Honorary Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing (F.AAN).

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As part of a cost-savings initiative, an existing course of ‘introduction to environmental engineering’ offered using a ‘traditional’ format of didactic class meetings supplemented with hands-on laboratory sessions, was changed significantly. The ‘modified’ format uses ‘blended’, ‘flipped’, and ‘mastery’ approaches to teach “2601: Fundamentals of Environmental Engineering” to approximately 60 sophomores pursuing baccalaureate degrees in environmental, civil, or architectural engineering, each semester. This paper presents a summary of the results from eight course offerings over a period of four years to more than 450 total students. Assessments included student grades; open-ended invitations for anonymous feedback at the end of each semester; anonymous, online surveys at a mid-point and at the end of each semester; the results of a common quiz administered in the first week of a follow-up course on water and wastewater treatment; and in-depth, qualitative feedback from a selection of high-performing students collected during face-to-face interviews during a follow-up course of independent, undergraduate research. In brief, a portion of didactic class meetings was replaced with pre-recorded, online digital lectures providing students with an opportunity for asynchronous, self-paced learning. The remaining twelve, ‘required’ face-to-face, inductive learning sessions promoted improved learning in the cognitive domain and introduced learning in the affective domain. A flipped-classroom coupled with a modified approach to mastery-learning ‘required’ students to review instructional content before meeting face-to-face including: a) reading the textbook; b) watching pre-recorded, online digital lectures; c) mastering online quizzes; and d) submitting written homework. All students who completed all ‘required’ assignments before the published deadline were assigned a grade of ‘C’, for the course. Students who completed additional ‘optional’ assignments had the potential to earn a grade of ‘B’ or ‘A’, for the course. The take home messages for this paper include: (1) a substantial initial investment of time may be needed to create course content using blended, flipped, and mastery pedagogy; (2) group and individual written work, oral presentations, and essays can be used side-by-side with quizzes, a midterm exam, and a final exam to create an ‘all-you-care-to-eat buffet approach’ to earn grades; (3) implementing a ‘one miss’ policy for ‘required’ assignments helps to lower student anxiety over grades; (4) costs were reduced and student learning was maintained through blended, flipped, and mastery pedagogy; (5) many students enjoy the new approach because they appreciate clear expectations and a flexible course format; (6) some students strongly resist the modified format; and (7) a willingness to persevere despite trial-and-error is necessary as students adapt to the new approach.

Oerther, D. B. (2017, June), Reducing Costs While Maintaining Learning Outcomes using Blended, Flipped, and Mastery Pedagogy to Teach Introduction to Environmental Engineering Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28786

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