471427 Intersection of Active Learning Experiences and Learning Preferences in the Gateway Course

Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Grand Ballroom B (Hilton San Francisco Union Square)
Matthew Melillo, Christopher Cooper and Lisa G. Bullard, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC

In this investigation, we sought to link student learning preferences with class performance in an introductory chemical engineering course with roughly 160 students split over three sections. In addition to the professors’ lectures using “notes with gaps” and active learning opportunities, all students were also required to attend a one-hour weekly recitation-style Problem Session led by teaching assistants (TA’s) who reviewed lectured content and covered homework and example problems. The weekly Problem Sessions occurred in a classroom setting similar to lecture, with students sitting in rows facing the TA. To review a homework or example problem, TA’s asked students how to proceed step-by-step in solving a part of the problem. Based on feedback from the class, the TA’s helped the students ultimately arrive at a solution to the problem. To create more active learning opportunities, a ”Creativity Space” in the Engineering library with moveable whiteboard walls was utilized twice during the semester to allow students to work in groups, solve problems in steps, and critique other groups’ solutions, with the TA’s providing guidance as the students worked together. We gauged the effectiveness of normal Problem Sessions, as well as the active learning exercises, via a student survey where they identified their learning preferences, such as more example problems, more lecture content review, more group work, etc. The survey responses were analyzed both by overall class preference as well as by breaking the responses down into smaller groups based on the students’ final grades in the class. This survey and analysis elucidated specific student learning preferences and enabled identification of strengths and weakness in the Problem Sessions at each level of performance in the class. Overall, we identified several areas of improvement to address the needs of lower performing students while also revealing that generally, students enjoy and benefit from active learning experiences. Our findings will be used to improve Problem Sessions in future semesters.

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See more of this Session: Poster Session: Chemical Engineering Education
See more of this Group/Topical: Education Division