Asee peer logo

Students’ Responses to Professionally Contextualized Activities in a Studio Class

Download Paper |


2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Novel Classrooms

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Ayman M. Alabdullatif Oregon State University

author page

Shane Paul Lorona Oregon State University


Milo Koretsky Oregon State University

visit author page

Milo Koretsky is a Professor of Chemical Engineering at Oregon State University. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from UC San Diego and his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, all in Chemical Engineering. He currently has research activity in areas related engineering education and is interested in integrating technology into effective educational practices and in promoting the use of higher-level cognitive skills in engineering problem solving. His research interests particularly focus on what prevents students from being able to integrate and extend the knowledge developed in specific courses in the core curriculum to the more complex, authentic problems and projects they face as professionals. Dr. Koretsky is one of the founding members of the Center for Lifelong STEM Education Research at OSU.

visit author page

Download Paper |


In a project to “re-situate” learning to better align student work at school with the work they will do in professional practice, the Department of Chemical Engineering at a large public university is implementing a new activity design in its studio classes. The revised studios incorporate authentic activities that are focused on contextualizing work in engineering practice. The intent is to create a need for students to use their engineering judgment to make decisions. In this research study, we compare student responses to a set of re-designed studios to the previous design to infer the degree to which they perceive their activity is shifting.

We adapt Pickering’s notions of free and forced moves from science practice to look at how students take up engineering practices. In free moves, students have authorship to come up with their own approach to solve a problem. Once the approach is selected, it is followed by a set of forced moves where the students are directed by disciplinary norms and practices to follow a specific path to get a “final answer.” It is our assertion that the first three years of the canonical chemical engineering curriculum focuses almost exclusively on forced moves. By shifting activity to provide authorship of free moves, we aim to more fully develop students’ engineering identity and make them more creative problem solvers. This study represents a first step towards these lofty goals by examining how students take up these new studio activities.

The context for this study is a 2nd year class serving chemical, biological, and environmental engineering students. Students attended a weekly studio of which approximately half used the redesigned pedagogy. After each studio, students were asked to fill out a two question survey with one free response question and one Likert scale question. The free response asked students to write down one thing that they learned from the studio. We report analysis from 207 participants across 10 studio activities.

Responses were coded as follows. Responses that indicated that the student learned how to solve the assigned problem with no references to the ways that the knowledge or skills could be applied to other problems were labeled “Isolated.” Other responses where the student extended what had been learned to beyond the current problem statement were labeled “Integrated.” In addition, responses that connected to the engineering contexts in which the studios were framed were labeled “Contextual.” This coding scheme was independently applied by two researchers. A Cohen’s kappa value of 0.76 was achieved suggesting a suitably reliable coding scheme.

In the first studio, which was a redesigned studio, 57% of the responses were Isolated and 34% were Integrated. The remaining responses were not related to the activity preformed. In addition, 19% of the responses were Contextual. The same coding scheme will be used to analyze the other 9 studios. Through this analysis, we aim to infer the degree to which designs that contextualize engineering work and encourage free moves help students place the material they use in an engineering context.

Alabdullatif, A. M., & Lorona, S. P., & Koretsky, M. (2018, June), Students’ Responses to Professionally Contextualized Activities in a Studio Class Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31025

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: © 2018 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