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What Kinds of Advice do Chemical Engineering Students Give to Future Students for Success in High-structure Courses?

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Chemical Engineering Pedagogy

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Justin Shaffer Colorado School of Mines

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Dr. Justin Shaffer is a Teaching Associate Professor in Chemical and Biological Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. Dr. Shaffer's research focuses on high structure course design and student attitudes towards biology. He teaches thermodynamics, material and energy balances, anatomy and physiology, and introductory biology.

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High structure courses are designed to have students be active participants in the learning process with pre-class content acquisition through reading or videos, in-class practice with active learning exercises, and after-class review assignments. This course design has been demonstrated across STEM disciplines to improve overall student performance and to reduce student achievement gaps. While faculty may suggest certain strategies for success in high structure courses, it is unknown what study methods students perceive as most helpful and therefore what kinds of advice they would give future students. Having an understanding of this will allow courses to be updated to provide support to students’ for a successful learning experience. The goal of the study was therefore to survey students from various high structure chemical engineering courses about advice they would give to future students of the same course. Students ranging from freshman to seniors (n = 224) in four different courses (introductory thermodynamics, material and energy balances, introductory biology, and anatomy and physiology) were invited to give advice to future students by writing advice on a notecard on the last day of class. The advice comments were coded using an iterative qualitative methodology and five large categories and 18 total sub-categories were identified as types of advice that students gave. Of the students in these courses, 183 students gave advice (81.7%) and left a total of 517 coded comments. Preliminary results suggest that students gave similar advice in related classes (i.e. thermodynamics and material and energy balances vs biology and anatomy and physiology). The most common types of advice, in order of prevalence, were general study tips, course expectations, and not procrastinating. Further, advice that could be categorized as a study tip or expectation made up 82% of the comments, while advice about interactions with others and positive thinking only showed up in 18% of the time. This student advice can now be built into these and other similar courses to provide suggestions for how students can succeed. Further studies will be conducted to determine if student advice depends on course format (face to face vs online), duration (academic semester vs summer), and by institution location.

Shaffer, J. (2021, July), What Kinds of Advice do Chemical Engineering Students Give to Future Students for Success in High-structure Courses? Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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