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The Solve - Personalize - Integrate - Think Approach in the Process Control Classroom

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

New Pedagogical Approaches in Chemical Engineering

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Joshua A Enszer University of Delaware

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Dr. Joshua Enszer is an Assistant Professor of Instruction in Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Delaware. He has taught core and elective courses across the curriculum, from introduction to engineering science and material and energy balances to process control and modeling of chemical and environmental systems. His research interests include technology and learning in various incarnations: electronic portfolios as a means for assessment and professional development, implementation of computational tools across the chemical engineering curriculum, and game-based learning.

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In courses with heavy reading loads, traditionally in the humanities, one approach to homework assignments carries the acronym SPIT – for Summarize, Personalize, Integrate, Thoughtful puzzle – a four-step algorithm that engages students with the reading material. First, they are charged to provide a summary of the text of specific length; next, to explain how that reading connects to their personal lives; next, to explain how the reading integrates with either the course or their overall curriculum; finally, to provide a “thoughtful puzzle,” another question they could answer or problem they could tackle, based on the information from the reading. The SPIT approach is meant to increase student exposure to the text and to get them to work metacognitively; that is, to think about their own thinking and learning.

Writing to Learn is a movement that has been explored primarily in the humanities and social sciences, with indications that non-traditional writing assignments can improve student attitudes toward writing, but may not always impact performance in the specific discipline. Some work has also been done in engineering to show modest positive correlation between writing performance and exam performance in courses in thermodynamics and process control.

With the goals of increased practice and metacognition in mind, the SPIT approach has been adapted in our university’s chemical process control course to replace traditional problem sets. Rather than complete a homework set, students instead work on a single problem a week, but are charged to work with the problem in four different ways, following the same approach but replacing the “Summarize” step with “Solving” the problem. Thus, students solve the problem, connect it to their personal experiences, integrate it with their chemical engineering understanding from other courses, and finally propose a related problem that they should now also be able to solve.

Based on three years of data, student performance on these four-part assignments is correlated to student performance on traditional exams. We provide examples of some SPIT prompts as well as a discussion of how each of the four components are evaluated. We seek to determine whether student performance on one or more of these four pieces of their homework assignment is an indicator of their ability to solve typical process control problems.

Enszer, J. A. (2016, June), The Solve - Personalize - Integrate - Think Approach in the Process Control Classroom Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27020

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