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The Role Of Experiments In Inductive Learning

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

The Modern ChE Laboratory

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.1180.1 - 7.1180.15



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Paper Authors

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Stephanie Farrell

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Robert Hesketh

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C. Stewart Slater

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

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Session 3613

The Role of Experiments in Inductive Learning Robert P. Hesketh, Stephanie Farrell, and C. S. Slater Department of Chemical Engineering Rowan University 201 Mullica Hill Road Glassboro, New Jersey 08028-1701


This paper presents the results of Rowan University chemical engineering department’s efforts in teaching using the inductive method. In this paper our use of incorporating experiments into the inductive teaching and learning process will be given. We will give examples of experiments used in teaching Freshman Clinic, fluid mechanics, heat transfer and separations. A major thrust of this paper will be to show why traditional experimental procedures need to be altered to fit into an inductive method.

We believe that this method of teaching appeals to the inductive learner which is the preferred method of most students. A deductive learner prefers to proceed from general to specific, while an inductive learner prefers to proceed from specific to general. Studies have shown that induction promotes deeper learning and results in longer retention of the information to students. Induction, in many cases, is also the method in which the original material was discovered! This style of teaching is relatively rare in engineering courses and is almost non-existent in textbooks.


Instructors can teach inductively by presenting familiar phenomena, practical issues, or experimental observations before presenting a general principle. This procedure is unfamiliar to most professors since they were taught using a deductive style in graduate and undergraduate school. Surprisingly, most textbooks still use an exclusively deductive approach, proceeding from first principles and governing equations to specific applications. Since there are relatively few textbooks that are written using an inductive approach and a professors prior experience is deductive; this makes implementation of the inductive method a challenge. Another challenge is that students typically will not have a wide range of experience or intuition needed to begin the inductive process. A simple laboratory experiment or demonstration will provide the foundation (observations or data) from which the inductive process is initiated. It is interesting to note that in elementary school the science subjects are being taught use a text written in an inductive style.1

We have integrated inductive learning into our coverage of Freshman Clinic, fluids, heat transfer and mass transfer. In heat transfer, for example, simple heat exchanger design is the first topic addressed in the course. Discussion of the significance of the overall heat transfer coefficient provides a meaningful framework for introduction of topics such as conduction and convection,

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Farrell, S., & Hesketh, R., & Slater, C. S. (2002, June), The Role Of Experiments In Inductive Learning Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10853

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