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Using Problem Based Learning to Teach Thermodynamics: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Innovation for ChE Student Learning

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1419.1 - 10.1419.13



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Paper Authors

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Alfred Carlson

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A problem based learning (PBL) approach was used to teach the first course in Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics (First Law, Second Law, Fluid Property Thermodynamics). PBL was compared to a traditional lecture approach and an active learning approach which were used to teach the same course by the same instructor in terms immediately before and after the PBL term. Student learning was assessed in all three classes through traditional tests specifically structured to assess the first four levels on Bloom’s scale of higher learning: knowledge; comprehension; application; and analysis. Student course and instructor evaluations were used to gauge the affective response of Rose-Hulman students to the PBL approach as compared to the other two methods of teaching. According to the exam results, PBL was found to be at least as effective as the other teaching techniques at all 4 Bloom Levels, however teaching ratings were significantly lower for the PBL course than for either straight lecture or active learning approaches. This talk will present a comparison the quantitative results for PBL versus other teaching methods and give the author’s opinions as to the other benefits and problems with using PBL in the classroom.

Carlson, A. (2005, June), Using Problem Based Learning to Teach Thermodynamics: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14819

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