A pilot study of project-based learning in general chemistry for engineers

Kent J. Crippen, Chang Yu Wu, Treavor Boyer, Trisha De Torres, Maria Korolev, Philip J. Brucat

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

3 Scopus citations


Engineering education cannot expect to meet the demands of a global, diverse, and knowledge-based society without addressing the well-established issue of student retention. Change Chem is a curriculum reform model created to address this issue for freshman, in particular, traditionally underrepresented student groups. This paper reports on a pilot study of Change Chem, which uses collaborative problem-based learning with model-eliciting activities to transform the discussion section of general chemistry so as to better retain freshman who are engineering majors. The study involved a quasi-experimental design with a treatment (i.e. reformed curriculum) and comparison condition (i.e. business as usual) that was completed over a two-semester sequence. Across the two courses, 530 students consented to participation. Participant outcomes were compared at the course level (treatment group vs. comparison group). In addition, female students and students who were classified as underrepresented ethnic minorities were identified as a single group (i.e. target group) so that their outcomes could be compared across the courses (treatment vs. comparison). After the first course, all groups gained in their perception of learning, but students in the comparison condition had higher grades. Self-efficacy and professional persistence decreased for students using Change Chem. After the second course, Change Chem performed equal to or better than the comparison on all variables. In fact, the Change Chem group increased in three key variables: perception of learning, confidence in their math and science abilities and exposure to project-based learning. This may suggest a treatment effect that requires a longer duration. These results indicate that Change Chem supports learning and motivation for all students, important elements for long-term retention. Plans for additional re-design of the model and further study are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2016 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
PublisherAmerican Society for Engineering Education
StatePublished - Jun 26 2016
Externally publishedYes
Event123rd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - New Orleans, United States
Duration: Jun 26 2016Jun 29 2016


Other123rd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityNew Orleans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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