Daniel, Belton (2017) Developing competence with process simulation tools in undergraduate chemical engineering and chemistry programmes. In: Variety in Chemistry Education and Physics Higher Education Conference 2017, 24th-25th August 2017, York, UK. (Unpublished)

The simulation of chemical plants is of great importance for the successful design and operation of many large-scale industrial processes. Software for performing such simulations is often featured within chemical engineering undergraduate courses but is less common in chemistry programmes. One potential barrier holding back coherent teaching of process simulation is the unwillingness of faculty members to learn how to use new software, while another concern is that students are able to solve problems using the simulator without really understanding what is going on. The work presented here describes a methodology for teaching process simulation that utilises video-enhanced and exploratory-based learning. The teaching approach was evaluated for a cohort of first year chemical engineering students, with the evaluation drawing on tutor observations, online survey responses and interviews with students. These data sources were used to explore the student experience and reveal how students engaged with the learning process. Interview responses were examined in detail using a template analysis, which revealed several key themes. The learning process was observed to occur in distinct phases, which are linked with various stages of skill acquisition and cognition. Furthermore, as the students developed and became more advanced users of the process simulation software they began to demonstrate a clear desire to understand more about underlying principles, in line with the Dreyfus and Dreyfus five stage model of skill acquisition. The findings, supported by student quotations, provide a rich picture of how students can progress through successive levels of skill development in process simulation, forming a proposed learning model for process simulation pedagogy. These findings, along with an overview of how elements of this approach are being developed and integrated within undergraduate chemistry courses, will be presented and discussed.

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