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Significant Learning in Renewable Energy

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Renewable Energy in Classroom

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1081.1 - 24.1081.11



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Paper Authors


Timothy L. Marbach California State University Sacramento

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Dr. Timothy Marbach is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at California State University Sacramento, where he teaches courses in thermodynamics, thermal-fluid systems and project engineering. Tim received his Bachelors degree from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas and Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma in Norman. He has received the Outstanding Teaching Award for the CSUS College of Engineering and Computer Science and the Tau Beta Pi California Upsilon Chapter's Outstanding Teaching Award. His research interests include thermochemical processing of biofuels, combustion and applied energy/heat recovery.

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Significant Learning in a Renewable Energy Course    Traditionally,  engineering  education  has  focused  on  lower  levels  of  learning,  such  as  foundational  knowledge  and  application.    It  is  vital  that  students  understand  and  have  the  ability  to  use  the  physical  laws  governing  our  world  to  analyze  engineering  systems.    More  recently,  higher  levels  of  learning,  such  as  synthesis  and  evaluation,  have  received  increasing  attention  in  engineering  education.    This  paper  describes:  (a)  the  learning  goals,  (b)  the  teaching  and  learning  activities  and  (c)  feedback  and  assessment  from  a  senior-­‐level  mechanical  engineering  course  on  solar  thermal  energy  and  energy  storage.    Topics  of  the  course  included  the  solar  resource,  solar  collectors,  solar  thermal  power,  thermal  energy  storage,  phase  change  materials,  compressed  air  storage  and  flywheels.    Fink’s  “significant  learning”  approach  was  used  to  integrate  multiple  levels  of  learning  into  the  activities  of  the  course.    Each  unit  began  with  readings  from  texts  or  journals  on  the  topics.    Next,  a  lecture  was  used  to  connect  the  reading  to  fundamental  concepts,  such  as  the  laws  of  thermodynamics  or  heat  transfer  fundamentals.    Lectures,  examples  and  class  discussions  deepened  the  foundational  knowledge  and  application  learning.    Near  the  end  of  each  unit,  students  proposed  and  completed  a  design  project.    These  open-­‐ended,  real-­‐world  exercises  integrated  many  levels  of  learning.    For  example,  after  the  team  design  reports  were  submitted,  the  peer-­‐review  process  began.    Each  team  reviewed  and  evaluated  the  designs  of  the  other  teams;  ranking  the  designs  based  on  a  common  set  of  criteria  (identified  by  the  students).    They  also  identified  strengths  and  weaknesses  of  each  report  and  offered  areas  for  improvement.    Students  also  completed  a  research  presentation,  where  they  investigated  state-­‐of-­‐the-­‐art  issues  related  to  the  topics  of  the  course  and  presented  them  to  the  class.    Several  means  of  assessment  were  used  to  draw  conclusions  regarding  the  effectiveness  of  the  teaching  and  learning  activities  for  meeting  the  learning  goals  of  the  course.    A  summative  assessment  tool  was  used  at  the  end  of  the  course  to  measure  how  well  the  course  learning  objectives  were  met.    Reflective  learning  portfolios  were  used  as  formative,  self-­‐assessment.    These  portfolios  provided  the  students  with  the  opportunities  to  document  their  achievement  with  respect  to  the  learning  goals  of  the  course.    The  reflective  portion  of  the  portfolio  required  them  to  consider  what  they  learned,  the  importance  of  what  they  learned  and  to  identify  how  they  learned  in  the  course.  

Marbach, T. L. (2014, June), Significant Learning in Renewable Energy Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23014

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