Asee peer logo

Work in Progress: Design and Implementation of Collaborative Problem-based Learning Laboratory Modules for Engineering and Nonengineering Students

Download Paper |


2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Biological and Agricultural Engineering Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Biological and Agricultural Engineering

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Youngmi Kim University of Wisconsin, River Falls

visit author page

Dr. Youngmi Kim, an assistant professor in Ag Engineering Technology department at University of Wisconsin, River Falls, holds a B.E. and M.E. both in Biological Engineering from Inha University in South Korea. Her Ph.D. is in Agricultural and Biological Engineering from Purdue University. After earning her doctorate, Dr. Kim continued her affiliation with Purdue for 8 more years as a Bioprocess Research Engineer and has authored or co-authored more than 30 peer-reviewed journal papers and book chapters. Her expertise area include food and bioprocess engineering, biofuels and chemicals from lignocellulosic biomass, and reaction engineering.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Work in Progress: Design and Implementation of Collaborative Problem-Based Learning Laboratory Modules for Engineering and Non-Engineering Students

Problem-based learning (PBL) is an efficient pedagogical approach that can provide students opportunities to solve complex and open-ended engineering problems. The overall goal of this study, which will span the next three to five years, is to assess the impact of PBL on students’ problem-solving ability and learning attitude in an engineering course taken by a mixed group of students from engineering and non-engineering STEM disciplines. This work-in-progress paper provides the details of the PBL labs developed for a food and process engineering course, their initial implementation, and the challenges identified from the observations and the students’ course feedback collected at the end of the semester.

The food and process Engineering course described in this paper is taken by engineering and non-engineering STEM majors (Ag Engineering Technology, Ag Engineering, and Food Science and Technology) in their junior and senior years at University of Wisconsin-River Falls. The fact that the enrolled students vary in their majors, background knowledge in engineering, and experiences in solving engineering problems poses a unique challenge for this course. The course must provide a rigorous and applied educational experience for engineering students to meet the criteria set by Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) while ensuring that the non-engineering STEM students in the class learn and apply core engineering concepts and technology to solve food engineering problems in a team setting. In the past, the non-engineering STEM students enrolled in this course often expressed that they felt daunted and overwhelmed by the rigorous engineering-focused coursework involved in this course. This challenge led to the need to redesign the laboratory portion of this course by adopting PBL approach to help all students – regardless of their background knowledge in food process engineering – acquire problem-solving skills and preserve conceptual knowledge through multiple problem-solving experiences.

The PBL labs as described in this paper were implemented for the first time in fall of 2019. Feedback and responses received at the end of the semester reflect a unique challenge of implementing a PBL approach in a class comprised of students from both engineering and non-engineering STEM disciplines. The initial implementation outcomes suggest that in addition to the engineering background knowledge, the subject matter of an engineering course and the familiarity with the subject might be important factors to consider when assessing the effectiveness of PBL in an engineering course offered to a mixed group of engineering and non-engineering students. These identified challenges indicate the need to construct a systematic research design and evaluation methodology for this study to evaluate the effectiveness of PBL more accurately. The challenges identified by this preliminary study provide insight into how to guide a mixed group of engineering and non-engineering STEM students to solve complex problems and how to equip them with the necessary technical skills while strengthening their teamwork skills.

Kim, Y. (2020, June), Work in Progress: Design and Implementation of Collaborative Problem-based Learning Laboratory Modules for Engineering and Nonengineering Students Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35625

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2020 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015