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The focus of my L.L. Stewart Scholar project is developing a tool and pedagogy for concept-based instruction. The objectives are to: (1) Provide formative assessment of student learning, both allowing instructors to make necessary alterations and corrections to their instruction, and guiding students where to direct their learning efforts; (2) Form an integral part of the instructional activities themselves, transforming the classroom into a more learner-centered environment; and, (3) Provide a tool that education researchers can use to collect data to understand specific aspects of student learning.
In this project, we created the Web-based Interactive Science and Engineering (WISE) Learning Tool, which is designed to leverage the College of Engineering’s Wireless Laptop Initiative and allow every student in a class to be simultaneously engaged, creating a learner centered class based on active learning. By incorporating concept-based instruction, students can transition from problem solving by example, where they seek a one to one correspondence between an example problem they had been shown and the problem they are given, to a higher level of cognition where they solve problems by applying the fundamental principles covered in the course to any of a variety of entirely new problems. This “transfer” of learning is critical for project work and is a foundational capability needed in engineers of the 21st century.
This approach has been well received. As of 2011, over 20 instructors and 2,000 students have used WISE. We have presented two workshops and published five papers. It has also provided the groundwork for a project funded by the National Science Foundation, the AIChE Concept Warehouse. Oregon State is the lead in collaboration with the University of Colorado, Colorado School of Mines, and the University of Kentucky.
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Milo Koretsky is a professor in the School of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from UC San Diego and his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, all in chemical engineering. He currently has research activity in areas related to thin film materials processing and engineering education and is interested in integrating technology into effective educational practices and in promoting the use of higher-level cognitive skills in engineering problem solving.