Reforming Environmental Engineering Laboratories for Sustainable Engineering: Incorporating Problem Based Learning and Case Studies into an Environmental Engineering Lab Course
2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings
An introductory Environmental Engineering course was re-designed to include new environmental laboratory modules based on Sustainability and Green Design. The goal of the course was to incorporate the skill sets taught in a traditional Environmental Engineering Laboratory into the rapidly growing area of Environmental Sustainability and Sustainable Design. This restructuring of the lab course diverged from traditional step-by-step lab instruction by using an inquiry-based "open" experiment
... d to enhance student learning. These changes were based on a well known meta-framework for instructional design from How People Learn (HPL) 1 . Funded by the NSF Innovations in Engineering Education (IEECI) program, this research led to the development of modules utilizing the pedagogy of both problem-based learning and case studies to teach environmental sustainability concepts. This research addresses the NSF IEECI exploratory focus to study educational approaches for how principles of sustainability can be infused into traditional courses and how educators can best provide handson approaches of engaging students. Student learning gains and perceptions for using inquiry based teaching were gleaned from this research. Assessment of the research consisted of presurveys including the on-line Learning Styles Inventory developed by Felder and a baseline student achievement learning gains (SALG) on-line assessment. At the completion of the semester, students were assessed using focus group interviews, a post-survey Assessment of Student Preferences for Teaching and Learning, and an ABET Based Questionnaire for Postcourse Assessment. In keeping with the HPL concepts, the course attempted to focus on learning being driven by the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and needs of the learner. When the final focus group interviews were performed at the conclusion of the semester, students spoke on their perceived level of engagement compared to other labs they have taken. Students were also queried as to their opinion of the merit of two additional module topics for future development. The ultimate goal of this two year research project is to develop four modules for environmental sustainability. Two modules were developed for the first year of the research with the anticipation of adding two more modules during year two. The spring 2010 modules consisted of: (1) Green Engineering Design and (2) Water reuse and recycling. The year two activities are being partially shaped by student input from the focus groups and will incorporate modules on Solid Waste Handling/Recycling and Biodegradation/ Bioremediation. The details of the two completed modules are discussed in the paper in addition to the plans for the year two modules. We also discuss the benefits, disadvantages, and the lessons learned from the first year of research for this work.