(531e) A Spiral Curriculum for Chemical Engineering

Authors: 
Toomey, R. - Presenter, University of South Florida
Sunol, A. - Presenter, University of South Florida


The objective of this project is to transform the educational experience of undergraduate students in Chemical Engineering by the development and implementation of a ?multi-dimensional spiral curriculum?. The central thesis underlying the proposed initiative is a recognition that an engineering curriculum needs to be more than simply an aggregate sum of individual courses but rather a coherent and continuous program of study that transforms a student into a professional capable of integrating core concepts in a specific discipline for the synthesis, analysis, and design of a product or process of societal value. For students who transfer from two-year community colleges this outcome is particularly difficult via the predominant, traditional sequential model with its emphasis on a linear sequence of courses and gradual spacing over a four year program. Therefore, this implementation focuses on chemical engineering transfer students with the intention of extending it on a wider basis in future.

The proposed project adapts the ?spiral curriculum model? (sometimes called incremental learning approach) where a set of interlinked and basic ideas are presented in a repetitive manner exposing the student to higher level of sophistication and greater depth in each of the interlinked concepts. The spiral curriculum focuses on introducing higher cognitive content with progress along the upward spiral path of learning the subject. The iterative revisiting of concepts at increasing levels of complexity promotes curricular integration in a structured, yet simple manner. It also provides an alternative approach to a traditional sequential curriculum taught in most engineering departments where courses delineated by content areas and individual examinations or assessments make vertical and horizontal integration of core concepts difficult and can lead to fragmented learning.

In this talk, we will present our experience so far with the implementation of the spiral curriculum at University of South Florida. The first batch of students using this curricula has just graduated, so that we can make some comparisons between the spiral and regular curriculum. The advantages and disadvantages of the spiral curriculum will be discussed, as a work in progress.

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