(106a) Developing Engineering Thinking during an Ill-Structured Activity for Kinetics and Reactor Design: A Technology Solution

Authors: 
Koretsky, M. D., Oregon State University
Gugel, J. L., Oregon State University
Ekstedt, T., Oregon State
The majority of core engineering science courses in the School of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University utilize a studio structure [1] where large lecture sections (100 - 350 students) are interspersed with smaller studio meetings (approximately 24 students). In studios, students work together in mostly 3-person teams, facilitated by trained graduate student teaching assistants (GTAs) and undergraduate learning assistants. Studios are designed to extend students’ thinking and problem-solving techniques while simultaneously reinforcing core content and developing teamwork and communication skills. In its original manifestation, Studio 1.0, the activity relied on sequestered, worksheet-based problems. These problems helped students identify and practice key conceptual and procedural knowledge, and connect that understanding to lecture, but the activities were clearly limited in developing students’ ability to connect the activity to professional practice and to develop value systems corresponding to the profession.

In the Studio 2.0 reform, our intent is to shift activity and re-situate learning by engaging students in meaningful, consequential work that directly and clearly relates to professional practice and desired professional attitudes and behaviors. The intent for these experiences is to provide a foundation for development of students’ chemical engineering identity. Rather than attempting to direct students procedurally to a “correct” solution, a Studio 2.0 memorandum might explain a situation where a company is seeking to optimize a particular process and ask students to collaboratively decide on and perform calculations to make a design recommendation. Assessment is formative and immediate, focused on whether teams are “making progress” in grappling with the task. In this framing, as learners struggle with difficult concepts and may even sometimes fail to accomplish their short-term goals, they are continually positioned as engineers seeking meaningful progress towards a viable solution, rather than students following directions to get a grade.

In this paper, we present a four-hour studio progression where students work in teams in studio on a situated problem where they must determine the rate constant for a sugar reaction and, importantly, recommend a time for manufacturing to yield a minimum conversion. We have developed a technology-based solution where the teams are provided data that is generated by simulation. Each team has two reactors to work with and the simulation generates unique results for the team. Variation is added mandating the teams apply statistical reasoning in addition to utilizing their knowledge of kinetics. For some teams, the reactors are different, for others they are the same. The technology solution prompts students to respond to a set of prompts in which they report their findings and engineering recommendations and justify them. We report on how we use these collected data to better understand the way students are making choices in this ill-structured space, how students within the same team (with the same data sets) align, and how we can interpret the results to improve the activity design. Our ultimate goal is to automate these assessment processes to provide an instructor a broad understanding of the choices students are making that supports delivery and assessment of more authentic ill-structured tasks.

[1] Koretsky, M. D. (2015). Program level curriculum reform at scale: Using studios to flip the classroom. Chemical Engineering Education, 49(1), 47-57.