Collaborative Research: Using Video Media to Enhance Conceptual Learning in an Undergraduate Thermodynamics Course

Grants and Contracts Details


This project addresses the need for changing undergraduate chemical engineering education to take advantage of skills possessed by a media savvy generation of students. A student's conceptual understanding is often decoupled from their problem solving ability (Bransford et al., 2000). In other words, mathematical solutions are often attained in the absence of fully understanding the physical system and/or meaning of the result. Introductory thermodynamics is an undergraduate chemical engineering course wherein confusion in fundamental concepts may create a significant barrier in effectively solving problems. Some of these concepts are abstract, causing many students to not easily relate to them. We propose a project to enhance conceptual learning through a new and innovative approach. We will have students: 1) develop an instructional video that teaches a concept in thermodynamics using common metaphors, and 2) watch a similarly constructed instructional video developed by peers at a separate institution. The former employs autodidactic learning, while the latter takes advantage of peerto- peer learning. To measure the effects of these treatments on conceptual learning, our project will execute: 1) a baseline assessment using a thermodynamics concept inventory, and 2) a post-treatment assessment using a similar instrument. Additionally, student affective domain responses will be measured with a questionnaire using standard Likert ratings. The PIs are uniquely qualified to execute this proposed work. Abulencia has performed preliminary work using this approach in an introductory fluid dynamics course. Silverstein has performed extensive work in developing online and multimedia resources for the chemical engineering education community. Finally, in prior NSF work, Vigeant has focused on conceptual learning in chemical engineering thermodynamics and has developed and established the reliability of the thermodynamics concept inventory that will be used as an assessment tool in this project (Prince and Vigeant, 2007; Prince et al., 2009; Vigeant et al., 2009; Vigeant et al., 2009; Prince et al., 2010a; Vigeant et al., 2010). Broader Impacts This project has broad implications for increasing conceptual understanding in thermodynamics for both undergraduate engineering students and the general public. Thermodynamics is a core course in other engineering disciplines (e.g., mechanical engineering). Thus, the videos generated from this project are designed to impact a wide range of engineering students. Moreover, as the collection of videos grows, students from diverse backgrounds and capabilities will find one that addresses their individual needs and learning style. Finally, faculty embracing this project will have an opportunity to have their students view the videos to supplement lectures, as well as contribute to the collection. With respect to the general public, non-engineers curious about thermodynamic principles will have an opportunity to gain insight on a particular concept, because the instructional videos will use ordinary examples. Use of publically accessible cloud-based service to host the videos will guarantee broad and rapid availability to institutions of higher education and the general public. Links will be provided from prominent springboards, such as the resources section of the AIChE Education Division Website and the NSDL library. In order to build a learning community, the collection will be aggressively promoted using a press kit sent out to those who teach thermodynamics and similar courses at other institutions (including community colleges and HBCUs), as well as through further distribution of the kit and word of mouth at national conferences (e.g., ASEE and AIChE). Traditional dissemination of the project and its findings will also occur through workshops programmed at the aforementioned national conferences, as well as peer-reviewed journal articles such as the International Journal of Engineering Education, Education for Chemical Engineers, or Chemical Engineering Education.
Effective start/end date7/1/116/30/16


  • National Science Foundation: $83,992.00


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.