Intentional Course Design and Outcomes Assessment
Shifting the Curve in Material and Energy Balances Courses
Inci Ayranci and Suzanne Kresta
University of Alberta
The common wisdom is that a bi-modal distribution in process analysis is “normal”. As class sizes in second year chemical engineering at the University of Alberta have grown to over 100 students, we have focused on the process analysis course to consciously uncover and remove barriers to student learning which result in the “bi-modal distribution”. Our solutions include visual learning, experiential learning, industrial best practices and structured problem solving techniques which are now embedded in the course. The modified teaching approach progresses in three stages: first, vocabulary building through research on a specific process and through flowsheet construction; second, structured visual problem solving tools which are also the back bone of industrial best practice; third, active learning exercises throughout the course to pull out questions and ensure that students are well prepared to tackle problems independently. While there is still see a tail in our distributions, the lower hump in the curve has disappeared. This is a clear indication that we are reaching and helping students who previously were lost and bewildered. These teaching methods take relatively little effort to implement in the classroom, and create a learning environment based on interaction and critical thinking.
Part of this work was supported the Shirley and Fraser Russell Teaching Fellowship, which was awarded to Inci Ayranci in 2010. This fellowship provides a graduate student with the opportunity to gain teaching experience under the mentorship of a faculty member. Inci created active learning exercises to improve the understanding and the applications of the concepts to the problems. These exercises were very well received and appreciated by the students.
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