Raising the level of questioning in the undergraduate ChE curriculum

Anthony J. Muscat

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Planned class discussion based on the Socratic method was used to teach undergraduate chemical engineering thermodynamics and chemical reactor design courses at the University of Arizona. The primary objective of the class discussions was to develop critical thinking skills. A combination of outside and inside of class elements was used to try and create the most favorable setting for in-class discussions. The questions were chosen by the professor and planned ahead of lecture to uncover how to approach problems and derive insights. Two discussions varying in length from five to ten minutes were planned for each class meeting. When asked on self-assessments, students found this learning approach unsettling because they were put on the spot and felt embarrassed if they could not give what they believed was a correct answer. Nevertheless, students found value in practicing verbal skills and in being guided. The discussions gave the professor an opportunity to quickly change the pace and mode of learning in the classroom, to personally interact with each student several times over the span of a semester, and to guide students interactively. The average scores on exam problems that required higher level thinking skills was 70-80% which is in the same range as the average scores on knowledge-based problems. The exam results provide some measure that higher level thinking skills were improved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4117-4128
Number of pages12
JournalASEE Annual Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 1999
Event1999 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Engineering Education to Serve the World - Cahrlotte, NC, United States
Duration: Jun 20 1999Jun 23 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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