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Work in Progress: Development of Web-based Pre-laboratory Modules to Increase Motivation and Reduce Cognitive Load

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Works-in-Progress Postcard Session

Tagged Division

Chemical Engineering

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Kimia Moozeh is a PhD Candidate, graduate research and teaching assistant in Engineering Education at the University of Toronto. She received her Hon. B.Sc. in 2013, and her Master’s degree in Chemistry in 2014. Her dissertation explores improving the learning outcomes of undergraduate engineering laboratories by bridging the learning from a larger context to the underlying fundamentals, using digital learning objects.

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Deborah Tihanyi University of Toronto

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Deborah Tihanyi is an Associate Professor, Teaching Stream and Director of the Engineering Communication Program at the University of Toronto.

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Jennifer Lyn Farmer University of Toronto

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Jennifer Farmer is a Teaching-Stream Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry at the University of Toronto. She holds a Bachelor of Science specializing in Pharmaceutical and Biological Chemistry and PhD in Chemistry, both from York University. Prof. Farmer's research interests are primarily within the field of Applied Chemistry and Engineering with a focus in undergraduate laboratory instructions. Currently, she is working on the development of innovative and stimulating applied chemistry experiments that enhances student learning and engagement with core curriculum material. One of her particular interests is the incorporation of Problem-Based Learning (PBL) pedagogy into her lab courses to study the effects PBL has on student's learning with respect to critical thinking, retention of knowledge, and development of professional skills (e.g., teamwork, writing and verbal communication, and life-long learning).

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Greg Evans University of Toronto Orcid 16x16

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GREG EVANS PhD, P.Eng, FCEA, FAAAS is the Director of the Collaborative Specialization in Engineering Education, a 3M national Teaching Fellow, and a member of the University of Toronto President’s Teaching Academy. He has been learning and teaching Chemical Engineering for several decades as a Professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry at the University of Toronto. His contributions to teaching have been recognised through the 2015 Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations Award, the 2014 Allan Blizzard Award for collaborative teaching, the 2013 Northrop Frye Award for integrating research and teaching, the 2010 Engineers Canada Medal for Distinction in Engineering Education. Greg is also the Director of the Southern Ontario Centre for Atmospheric Aerosol Research whose research on air pollution been recognised both nationally and internationally.

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Undergraduate engineering laboratories are considered an essential part of engineering education curricula, as they provide an environment for hands-on learning. An important factor contributing to the effectiveness of laboratories is being prepared both conceptually and procedurally, which can be achieved through pre-laboratory exercises. Past research indicates that well-designed pre-laboratory exercises can clarify the expected work, engage students and encourage them to learn related theoretical concepts. Effective preparation through pre-lab exercises can also help reduce cognitive load and increase meaningful learning. However, in order to achieve these goals, pre-laboratory exercises should explain related theories/concepts, and introduce application in addition to describing the experimental procedures. Too often, students are not given adequate explanation as to why an experiment is performed, why they should care about the experiment and its relevance to real world engineering practice. We hypothesize that this lack of broader contextualization can detract from their motivation.

Research is currently being conducted to enhance the laboratory-based learning experience of chemical engineering undergraduate students at [name of the university], by developing web-based pre-laboratory modules. The content and design of these modules are in accordance with the cognitive theory of multimedia learning, and the expectancy-value theory of motivation. The pre-laboratory modules will be evaluated through a chemical engineering undergraduate course. Student perceptions will be sought through a survey to assess perceived learning and motivation.

Each pre-lab module will consist of a few short animation videos. Students can control the pace of videos or re-watch them as necessary. Each video is followed by a couple of questions, which students have to respond before moving to the next video. These questions force recall, and provide students with an opportunity to reflect on what they have learned in the videos. Explanatory feedback is then provided for each question. These principles of multimedia learning can help reduce cognitive load during multimedia learning.

The content of the videos include real-world relevance and the utility value of the experiments to help motivate deeper learning when performing the laboratories. According to the expectancy-value theory of motivation, utility value is a factor contributing to student motivation. Students are also presented with connection of theories to procedural steps.

This work in progress paper presents a detailed discussion on the content and design of these pre-laboratory modules, which are informed by the above-mentioned theories. In addition, the design of a survey to assess perceived learning and motivation is also discussed. However, no survey data will be available by the time of the draft paper submission.

Moozeh, K., & Tihanyi, D., & Farmer, J. L., & Evans, G. (2018, June), Work in Progress: Development of Web-based Pre-laboratory Modules to Increase Motivation and Reduce Cognitive Load Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31283

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