(375q) Resource Development Approach for Enhancing Enabling Environments within Experiential Learning Modules | AIChE

(375q) Resource Development Approach for Enhancing Enabling Environments within Experiential Learning Modules


Shah, U. V. - Presenter, Imperial College London
Inguva, P., Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Brechtelsbauer, C., Imperial College London
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Shah, Umang Vinubhai Shah, Umang 2 2 2019-04-12T12:00:00Z 2019-04-12T12:00:00Z 1 1631 9303 77 21 10913 15.00

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Resource development approach for enhancing enabling
environments within experiential learning modules

Umang V. Shah, Pavan Inguva, Clemens Brechtelsbauer

1 line-height:200%;font-family:" arial>
Department of Chemical Engineering, Imperial College London, South Kensington Campus,
London SW7 2AZ, United Kingdom


justify;line-height:200%"> 200%;font-family:" arial>With the rapid
emergence of new technologies in the 21st century, chemical
engineers have to tackle challenges that are often multi-disciplinary. This
regularly forces them to obtain new knowledge beyond their zone of expertise in
order to remain competent and relevant. From the educational perspective, this
means institutes of higher education should not only prepare their students for
independent learning but also for independent thinking and creative
problem solving

text-align:center;line-height:150%"> 150%;font-family:" arial>

text-align:center;line-height:normal"> " arial>Figure-1 Necessary
components for independent learning from learner perspective

justify;line-height:150%"> 150%;font-family:" arial> 

justify;line-height:200%"> 200%;font-family:" arial>Independent
learning has several internal and external components with respect to the
learner (Cukurova, 2014) (Figure 1).
The internal components include cognitive, metacognitive and affective skills
of the learner, whereas the external component refers to an “enabling
environment” that includes facility, time, peer and teacher/facilitator.

text-align:center;line-height:normal"> " arial> 

Internal components for promoting independent learning
have been discussed at length in the literature. On the contrary, external
components are rarely discussed.  Considering the focus on educational
literature on lecture based modules/ problem classes, external components may
be less critical, however if independent learning is to be promoted in a
hands-on education, the external components become equally important,
particularly equipment and support infrastructure.

This study focuses on the pedagogic underpinning of
how sound resource design can facilitate effective experiential learning and
ultimately promote independent and cross-disciplinary learning using a case
study of a 2nd Year chemical engineering laboratory module. We
propose a resource design approach that consists of three pillars: 1)
Flexibility, 2) Authenticity and 3) Accessibility (FAA).

Course Context

The Knowledge Lab is a practical module offered to
second year chemical engineering students as part of their four year MEng
degree. Knowledge Lab aims to develop a student’s applied problem-solving
skills and to provide a glimpse of a professional process engineering workflow.
In this module, students pose as group of consultants to solve a real-life
engineering problem and have the flexibility to design their own solution
approach which has to be agreed with their project supervisor. Each week of
work is termed ‘a step’ which increase in complexity over the three weeks
duration of the project.

A typical example of the project set-up and its
pedagogic goals

A typical example of a project offered in the course
can be demonstrated by the reactor commissioning project, where student role
play as commissioning engineers tasked with commissioning a set of reactors to
produce a product at a target yield. The Process and Instrumentation Diagram
(P&ID) and equipment is shown in Figure 2. The set-up is designed to enable
students to design and implement control strategies for a variety of process
parameters to optimize reactor performance for maximum conversion.

Figure-2 " arial> P&ID for reactor commissioning


The external components have to meet three pedagogical
design goals to facilitate independent learning:

text-indent:-18.0pt;line-height:200%"> line-height:200%;font-family:" arial>1)    Flexibility:

text-indent:-18.0pt;line-height:200%"> line-height:200%;font-family:" arial>a.    Flexibility in project conception and design:

text-indent:-90.0pt;line-height:200%"> line-height:200%;font-family:" times new roman>                                 
" arial>i.    The experimental design offers a high degree of
operational freedom. From a control standpoint, students can develop different
control strategies by selecting from multiple possible actuator and sensor
options. In addition, students have flexibility in selecting what part of the
project they want to focus on (such as optimizing reaction vs. developing
control strategies). The focus of the approach is not on finding the correct
answer, but on being able to understand and explain the received answer.

text-indent:-18.0pt;line-height:200%"> line-height:200%;font-family:" arial>b.    Flexibility in assessment:

text-indent:-90.0pt;line-height:200%"> line-height:200%;font-family:" times new roman>                                 
" arial>i.    All submission deadlines and assessments are
negotiated with the project leads, thus providing flexibility with deadlines.

text-indent:-90.0pt;line-height:200%"> line-height:200%;font-family:" times new roman>                               
" arial>ii.    Considering the intellectual load, the majority of the
assessment is focused on discussions of the decision rationale and explaining
results in one to one conversation with the project leads, which not only
provides instant feedback and intellectual discussion possibility.

text-indent:-18.0pt;line-height:200%"> line-height:200%;font-family:" arial>2)    Authenticity:

text-indent:-18.0pt;line-height:200%"> line-height:200%;font-family:" arial>a.    Experimental set-up: For any experimental set-up,
parts and instrumentation are industrial grade. The control user interface is
based on industrially accepted Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA)
principles (Figure-3). All resources are designed to represent a typical
academic or industrial research lab. 

text-indent:-18.0pt;line-height:200%"> EN-US">b. font-family:" times new roman>     
" arial>Teaching material: The handouts
were structured as project briefs similar to that given to practicing
engineers. Students need to take initiative in making decisions on aspects such
as data-processing and presentation which would be expected professionally.

center;text-indent:-18.0pt;line-height:200%"> normal"> line-height:200%;font-family:" arial>

center;text-indent:-18.0pt;line-height:200%"> line-height:200%;font-family:" arial>Figure
Control interface for the reactor commissioning

line-height:200%"> font-family:" arial> 3)    Accessibility:

text-indent:-18.0pt;line-height:200%"> line-height:200%;font-family:" arial>a.    Experimental set up: All experimental set-ups are
designed to be easily accessible to students, which means the design of the
interface includes many user-friendly features for example. This helps to
reduce time spent on equipment familiarization and
operator confusion, thus facilitating a student’s independent exploration of
the design space. Additional resources, i.e. video led operational
instructions, equipment and individual instrumentation manuals, calibration
details, etc. are provided in addition to the brief project handouts.

text-indent:-18.0pt;line-height:200%"> line-height:200%;font-family:" arial>b.    Teaching material: To help facilitate student’s
independent exploration of available literature, a reference list of key
articles and textbooks were provided.

Evaluation of Learner Outcomes

The resource design approach on the basis of FAA, has
been on offer since autumn 2016 and three cohorts have worked with this

Figure 4 12.0pt;line-height:200%;font-family:" arial>
UG student feedback results for Knowledge Lab (2015-18)

Figure 4 shows student feedback on the module (n mso-ansi-language:EN-US">³ line-height:200%;font-family:" arial> 80),
for each cohort commencing from autumn of the year on four different metrics.
Feedback was collected and measured on a Likert scale. Evidently, student
satisfaction in multiple modes has improved significantly with the introduction
of the new Knowledge lab resource design approach. It is interesting to note
that in 2016 which was the first year of the new structure, overall
satisfaction dipped. The cause for this decline was noted in the free text
comments to be primarily teething issues with the new equipment which have
subsequently been fixed. None of the free text comments voiced any issues
regards lack of engagement and intellectual stimulation.

In addition to the student feedback, focus group
interviews were conducted for current and past 2nd year students and
graduate teaching assistants. The purpose of the interview was to evaluate the
effectiveness of the pedagogic approach.


Focus group discussion revealed that flexibility,
authenticity, and accessibility were found to be three important pillars in the
experimental resources. As highlighted by one of the GTAs during the
discussion, at the educator level, design and resource flexibility means the
same project can be used to formulate a variety of hands-on activities
targeting different student autonomy levels ranging from demonstrations to open
ended projects. Within the same autonomy level, different activities can also
be designed, varying in project aims, methods and materials, without
compromising authenticity, and accessibility. At the teacher level (GTAs), they
can adapt the equipment to meet the requirements or experimental plans as
proposed by the students. At the student level, they have significant
operational flexibility with exploring the design space.

Benefits of FAA for Students - Promoting Independent

200%"> " arial>The large number of operational
degrees of freedoms in set-up means that students have a large design space to
work in. This approach enhances the learning cycle as follows:

line-height:200%"> font-family:Symbol;mso-ansi-language:EN-US">·         Abstract Conceptualization: instead of working with a
pre-existing rig configuration, students first have to consider the various
possible permutations of the equipment and draw on previously learnt theory
before deciding on a plan of action.

line-height:200%"> font-family:Symbol;mso-ansi-language:EN-US">·         Active Experimentation: students can test various
combinations of the equipment when setting up a control loop or testing
different control strategies without spending too much time on adjusting the
hardware or software.

line-height:200%"> font-family:Symbol;mso-ansi-language:EN-US">·         Reflective Observation: students can quickly see the
effect of their experimental choices due to the lab scale nature of the
equipment, thus allowing them to reflect on the relationship between the
settings used and the outcome

200%"> " arial>The accessibility of an
experimental set up is important for creating an enabling work environment.
This environment enhances the following aspects of Kolb’s cycle.

line-height:200%"> font-family:Symbol;mso-ansi-language:EN-US">·         Active Experimentation: An easy-to-use set-up and an
adequate support mechanisms means that students are not intimidated by the rig
or spend time getting it to work. Having fail-safes in terms of equipment
configurations as well as in assessment gives students the reassurance that
they can fully explore the design space for these experiments without risking
failure or compromising marks, reducing perceived risk and mental barriers
during experimentation. The transformation axis from active experimentation to
reflective observance is also activated as the resource flexibility makes it
easier for students to physically see the impact of their experimental choices,
facilitating the reflective observation process.


The nature of the different components of enabling
environment, including experimental resources, support infrastructure, and
assessment can have a significant impact on learning outcomes and module
development. Design flexibility, authenticity, and accessibility is evidently
demonstrated to be key in enhancing the effectiveness of the enabling
environment. This in turn enhanced the learning process through greater activation
of all the aspects of experiential learning.


200%;text-autospace:none"> 12.0pt;line-height:200%;font-family:" arial>Cukurova, M. (2014) An Investigation of an Independent
Learning Approach in University Level Chemistry: The Effects on Students’
Knowledge, Understanding and Intellectual Attributes
. University of York.