Asee peer logo

Reforming Environmental Engineering Laboratories for Sustainable Engineering: Incorporating Problem Based Learning and Case Studies into an Environmental Engineering Lab Course

Download Paper |


2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Techniques to Enhance Environmental Engineering Courses

Tagged Division

Environmental Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1232.1 - 22.1232.13



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Stephanie Luster-Teasley North Carolina A&T State University

visit author page

Stephanie Luster-Teasley is a tenure-track assistant professor with a joint appointment between the Departments of Civil, Architectural, Agricultural and Environmental Engineering and the Department of Chemical Engineering. She has a B.S. in chemical engineering from North Carolina A&T State University, a M.S. in chemical engineering from Michigan State University, and a Ph.D. in environmental engineering from Michigan State University. She specializes in physical and chemical remediation processes for water and soils. Prior to joining North Carolina A&T State University, she was a private consultant at two consulting firms specializing in chemical oxidation remediation for soil and water remediation. Her educational research investigates the use of problem based learning and case studies to improve classroom instruction.

visit author page

author page

Cindy Waters North Carolina A&T State University

Download Paper |


Reforming Environmental Engineering Laboratories for Sustainable Engineering: Incorporating Problem Based Learning and Case Studies into an Environmental Engineering Lab Course An introductory environmental engineering course was re-designed to include four newenvironmental laboratory modules based on Sustainability and Green Design. The goal of thecourse was to incorporate the skill sets taught in a traditional Environmental EngineeringLaboratory into the rapidly growing area of Environmental Sustainability and SustainableDesign. This restructuring of the lab course diverged from traditional step-by-step lab instructionby using an inquiry-based “open” experiment method to enhance student learning. These changeswere based on a well known meta-framework for instructional design, the How People Learn(HPL) model 1. Funded by the NSF Innovations in Engineering Education (IEECI) program, thisresearch led to the development of modules utilizing the pedagogy of problem-based learningand case studies to teach new environmental sustainable design concepts. One major goal for thisresearch is to address NSF IEECI exploratory focus to study educational approaches for howprinciples of sustainability can be infused into traditional courses and how educators can bestprovide hands-on approaches of engaging students. Student learning gains and perceptions forusing problem based teaching were gleaned from this research. Assessment of the researchconsisted of pre-surveys including the on-line Learning Styles Inventory developed by Felderand a baseline student achievement learning gains (SALG) on-line assessment. At thecompletion of the semester, students were assessed using a post-SALG survey, a post-surveyAssessment of Student Preferences for Teaching and Learning, and an ABET BasedQuestionnaire for Course Assessment. In keeping with the HPL model that includes four areasparamount to optimum learning, the student centered area of learning stresses the importance oflearning being driven by the knowledge, skills, attitudes and needs of the learner. When the finalfocus group interviews were performed at the conclusion of the semester students spoke on theirperceived level of engagement compared to other labs they have taken. Students were alsoqueried as to their opinion of the merit of two additional module topics for future development. The ultimate goal of this two year research project is to develop four modules forsustainability. Two modules were developed for the first year of the research with theanticipation of adding two more modules during year two. The spring 2010 modules consistedof: (1) Green Engineering Design and (2) Water reuse and recycling. The year two activities arebeing partially shaped by student input from the focus groups and will incorporate modules onSolid Waste Handling/Recycling and Biodegradation/Bioremediation. The details of the twocompleted modules will be discussed in detail in the paper in addition to the plans for the yeartwo modules. This paper will address the benefits, disadvantages, and the lessons learned fromthe first year of research for this work. 1. Bransford, J., Brown, A. and Cocking, R. (1999) How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Luster-Teasley, S., & Waters, C. (2011, June), Reforming Environmental Engineering Laboratories for Sustainable Engineering: Incorporating Problem Based Learning and Case Studies into an Environmental Engineering Lab Course Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18675

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2011 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015