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Using Research Projects To Enhance Environmental Engineering Laboratory Course

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2000 Annual Conference


St. Louis, Missouri

Publication Date

June 18, 2000

Start Date

June 18, 2000

End Date

June 21, 2000



Page Count


Page Numbers

5.699.1 - 5.699.10



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Paper Authors

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Victor F. Medina

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Valarie Akerson

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Nina Wang

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

Session 3551

Using Research Projects to Enhance Environmental Engineering Laboratory Course

Victor F. Medina, Valarie Akerson Washington State University, Tri-Cities

Nina Wang Merrimac Systems


The current paper describes a qualitative research study of an Environmental Engineering Laboratory Course taught to a group of graduate students in the Spring of 1999. The course structure was changed from a traditional mode of instruction to a project-based course that allowed students to design and carry out a personal inquiry project related to course topics. Data was collected in the form of videotaped course sections, pre- and post-interviews of the professor and students, and course documents such as lesson plans, syllabus, and student work. After data was analyzed it was found there were benefits to both students and instructor in terms of knowledge gained and objectives being met for both research and teaching. Challenges to using the project-based method were also identified. A call for future research could be helping professors more easily transition to the use of the project-based method.

I. Introduction Environmental Engineering Laboratory is a traditional part of the curriculum for graduate programs in environmental engineering. The traditional goal of the course is to teach specific environmental measurement techniques that can be used by full-time graduate students to conduct their research. The course studied was one semester long with the first author as the instructor. The instructor additionally had one lab technician to help with the course.

Washington State University, Tri-Cities (WSUTC) is a branch campus that offers a M.S. in Environmental Engineering. Most of the students in the program are part-time, and already work in the environmental field. Laboratory work is generally not a part of their careers, as environmental samples are generally sent to contract laboratories for analyses. Projects are required for the students to graduate, but because of the work schedules, few projects incorporate laboratory research. Skills in designing and implementing projects would greatly benefit the students.

WSUTC is also a research campus. Scholarly production in the form of refereed journal publications and research funding are expected for retention and promotion. Juggling the limited resource of time to do well in both teaching and research has been a major challenge for beginning faculty members in a research university.1,2 Many new, and even experienced faculty, have little or no teaching experience prior to the start of their university positions.3,4,5 Further, methods university instructors use to teach their students

Medina, V. F., & Akerson, V., & Wang, N. (2000, June), Using Research Projects To Enhance Environmental Engineering Laboratory Course Paper presented at 2000 Annual Conference, St. Louis, Missouri. 10.18260/1-2--8816

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