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Tiered Scaffolding of Problem-Based Learning Techniques in a Thermodynamics Course

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

SPECIAL SESSION: Educational Methods and Tools to Encourage Conceptual Learning I

Tagged Divisions

Chemical Engineering and Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1525.1 - 22.1525.14



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Paper Authors


Nancy K. Lape Harvey Mudd College

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Assistant Professor Nancy K. Lape joined the Engineering Department at Harvey Mudd College in 2005 and serves as the Director of the Patton and Claire Lewis Fellowship in Engineering Professional Practice. Her research focuses on energy-efficient composite gas separation membranes, chemical transport across human skin, and engineering education. She received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and completed her postdoctoral studies at the Laboratoire des Sciences du Genie Chimique (CNRS), ENSIC-INPL in Nancy, France.

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Tiered Scaffolding of Problem-Based Learning Techniques in a Thermodynamics CourseProblem-Based Learning (PBL) holds the promise of training students to tackle ill-defined, ill-structured problems and enhance transference of student knowledge fromtypical classroom activities to real-world design and analysis. However, some educationalresearchers (e.g. Sweller et al.) contend that minimal guidance techniques such as PBLfail to account for “human cognitive architecture” and produce exceedingly highcognitive loads, resulting in less learning than guided instruction. This paper addressesthe gap between high-level, high cognitive load PBL techniques by presenting a tieredscaffolding approach ranging from highly guided to entirely un-formed (student-formed)problems in a Thermodynamics course. This approach includes short, structured in-classproblems, a version of Challenge-Based Instruction (CBI) carried out as ill-structuredproblems in class, and student-developed Thermodynamic Inquiry Projects carried outoutside of class time. In addition to details of the approach, data on pre/post testassessments and student surveys will be presented.

Lape, N. K. (2011, June), Tiered Scaffolding of Problem-Based Learning Techniques in a Thermodynamics Course Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18365

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