Towards Constructivist Laboratory Education: Case Study for Process Control Laboratory M Abdulwahed 1,2 and Z K Nagy 2 1 Engineering Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, Loughborough University, United Kingdom 2 Chemical Engineering Department, Loughborough University, United Kingdom October 25, 2008 FIE 2008, Saratoga Springs, New York
Types of Laboratories (hands-on, virtual, remote, hybrid)
Pedagogical background – constructivism and Kolb’s experiential learning model
Case study – Process Control Laboratory
Engineering involves elements of design, problem solving, analytical thinking, data acquisition and analysis. Well designed labs can enhances these skills.
Engineering became theory oriented during the 20th century and much less attention was paid for labs.
Recent engineering education literature calls for rethinking the important role of laboratory in the engineering curricula.
Recent shift towards constructivist pedagogy urges embedding more labs in the curricula and linking constructivist pedagogical theories with engineering educational practices
Introduction - Laboratory Education
Types of Laboratories Hands-on Lab Virtual (Simulated) Lab Remote Lab
Hands-on labs are essential in engineering and science education (Johnstone et al 2001; Hofestein et al 2004; Feisel et al 2005; Kirschener et al 1988; Ma et al 2006).
Hands-on laboratories suffer from several drawbacks:
are barely a platform of constructing new meaningful knowledge (Gunstone 1991).
often impose a higher cognitive load than the level of students perception (Kirschner et al 1988).
time/space constraints, limited number/type of experiments.
Constructivist learning in the laboratory implies adopting further technologies and developing modern approaches of conducting labs (Hofestein et al 2004; Roth 1994; Hodson 1996).
First computer simulation assisted education took place in UK in 1962! (Smith 1992).
Computer simulations have been found in general useful in facilitating conceptual learning (Ingram et al 1979; Kinzel et al 1981; Adams 1981; Jimoyiannis et al 2001; Powel et al 2003).
Virtual Labs are not limited by timetables, access is not mutually exclusive, fast, safe, clean, inexpensive.
Virtual Labs can be adapted when hands-on labs are impossible to implement in the academic institutions, i.e. due to high cost or safety issues.
Virtual (Simulated) Laboratories
Virtual Labs do not demonstrate real-time variability, limited range of possible experimental outcome.
A psychological element of belief is absent
Engineering students are expecting labs to be something hands-on always.
There is general agreement that simulations should not be alternative of real hands-on labs when the last can be made available (Raineri 2001; Engum et al 2003; Heise 2006).
Virtual (Simulated) Laboratories
First idea of using internet for remote controlled labs was proposed in 1991 (Aburdene et al 1991), first implementation took place in 1993 between NASA and other four US academic institutions (Kondraske et al 1993).
Remote Labs were found stimulating the students towards the subject.
Access to remote labs is more flexible and not restricted by the geographical location.
Not all hands-on labs are convertible to remote access.
Various technologies have been used in implementing online labs such as Matlab/Simulink, RTLinux, HTTP, HTML, XML, JAVA, and LabView.
Remote (Online) Laboratories
Hybrid access modes to labs have been reported to be useful in enriching the learning experience (McAteer et al 1996; Ronen et al 2000; Raineri 2001; Spicer et al 2001; Tzafestas et al 2006).
However few hybrid labs with two access modes were reported (Engum et al 2003; Raineri 2001; Tzafestas et al 2006).
Seldom reported that three access modes have been utilized together.
Each laboratory access mode has different learning outcomes (Lindsay et al 2006). Hybrid structure may enrich the learning experience and accommodate more learning styles.
In recent laboratory literature, there are many calls of adapting hybrid labs in laboratory education (Ma et al 2006).
TriLab Combined approach – The TriLab
Triple Access, Virtual, Hands-on, and Remote.
Maximizes learning experience by combining all three types of laboratories
Accommodates different learning styles.
Plays important constructivist role in the teaching of the associated module
On-site Lab VirtualLab TeleLab
Pedagogical Background - Constructivism
Student centred approach in constructing knowledge through assimilation and accommodation (Piaget 1977).
Emphasize on meaningful learning, relevance to reality and students knowledge.
Emphasize on social learning and social interactions (Vygotsky 1978).
Strong emphasise on learning through experience (Dewey 1938, Kolb 1984).
Kolb’s Experiential Learning Model
Well accepted in the pedagogical literature
Four stages CE, RO, AC, AE composing two dimensions:
The Prehension Dimension (CE,AC)
The Transformation Dimension (RO, AE)
Optimal learning occurs when a balance between CE, RO, AC, and AE stages is obtained.
Traditional teaching gave higher attention to AC.
Enhanced learning is reported with Kolb’s Cycle design (Bailey et al 2004)
Abstract Conceptualization Concrete Experience Reflective Observation Active Experimentation
Pedagogical Background, Constructivism Poor learning outcome of the laboratory session is mainly due to weak activation of the prehension dimension before coming to the lab, hence the lab session turns into algorithmic and procedural following of the lab manual instead of actively constructing meaningful knowledge out of it. Proposition Abstract Conceptualization Concrete Experience Reflective Observation Active Experimentation
Intervention design for activating the prehension dimension (virtual lab as pre lab).
Measuring whether the intervention leads to activating the prehension dimension?
If yes, does it lead to better learning outcome in the lab?
Verification Steps Proposition Verification Methodology X X Hands-on Lab Hands-on Lab Preparation Pre Post Experimental Group Equivalent groups Conceptual model of the experimental methodology. Different Outcome? Control Group Y Yt
Lab rig mimics industrial plant.
Liquid level control.
Interfaced with the PC through National Instrument USB DAQ.
Software interface is built with LabView.
Lab is taught for second year chemical engineering students.
Case Study - The Process Control Lab Process Control Hands-on Rig Tank Actuator Output Flow meter Rotameter Pump Software Interface DAQ
Case Study - The Process Control Lab
Week 1 objectives are:
Calibration of the level sensor
Calibration of the control valve.
Week 2 objectives are:
Develop understanding of feedback and manual and automatic control
Build qualitative grasp of the differences among P, PI, and PID controllers.
Case Study - The Process Control Lab
Case Study - The Process Control Lab
Case Study - The Process Control Lab http://www.ilough-lab.com
Software environment to support VARK model
Four sensory preferences: Visual, Aural, Read/write, Kinesthetic (VARK)
MS-Agent based speaking Help system
Video/Sound transmission Telepresence
Laboratory was part of the Instrumentation and control course for second year students at the Chemical Engineering Department at Loughborough University
About 70 students in total.
4 laboratory groups, each group performs the laboratory in two sessions spanned over two consequent weeks.
The students were distributed on the groups based on their GPA during their first year.
Students were asked to prepare for the lab using the lab manual.
There are six test rigs. Students work on groups of two or three students on each test rig.
Pedagogical Experimentation Activating The Prehension Dimension with Pre-Lab Session Virtual Lab in a Pre-Lab Session
The third and fourth group students were asked to attend preparation session to prepare for the hands-on lab.
Preparation session used a virtual lab to mimic the hands-on lab.
About 60% of the third and fourth group students showed up in the preparation session.
Measurements for evaluation have been taken through, Pre-Lab tests, Post-Lab test and Questionnaires.
Remote Lab used in the first class and on several occasions during the semester to illustrate theoretical concepts and motivate students
Activating The Prehension Dimension with Pre-Lab Session
Activating The Prehension Dimension, Impact and Findings
All students have to do a pre-lab test before the hands-on session to measure their preparation level.
Q1 and Q2 of the pre-lab test where strongly correlated with the lab experiment.
Q3 to Q7 where more general questions
The control group were asked to prepare using the lab manual.
The experimental group attended a virtual lab session before the hands on lab.
Statistical analysis have revealed significant difference in the preparation level between the control and the experimental group.
The Null Hypothesis is: “Intervention in a pre-lab session using the virtual lab will NOT assist in preparing for the lab”.
Mann-Whitney non parametric test was used to test the hypothesis.
Confidence threshold of rejecting the Null Hypothesis is at 0.05
The test leads to reject the Null Hypothesis for questions related to the lab preparation.
Activating The Prehension Dimension, Impact and Findings Preparation- Statistical Results
All students have to do a post-lab test after the hands-on session to measure their performance during the lab.
Q1 needed lower cognitive ability to answer.
Q2 needed higher cognitive ability to answer correctly.
Q7 and Q8 were conceptual questions.
Statistical analysis have revealed significant difference in the cognitive grasp ability and the conceptual understanding in between the control and the experimental group due to the use of the virtual lab in pre lab session.
The experimental group has shown enhanced performance and higher means.
Activating The Prehension Dimension, Impact and Findings Does Preparation Lead to Better Learning in The Lab?
Virtual Lab in a Pre-Lab Session - Impact and Findings Learning Outcome - Statistical Results
The Null Hypothesis is: “Intervention in a pre-lab session using the virtual lab will NOT deepen the learning out of the lab session”.
The test leads to reject the Null Hypothesis for in depth and conceptual questions.
Virtual Lab in a Pre-Lab Session, Impact and Findings
Virtual Lab has left positive impact on students will towards further experimentation.
The experimental group mean was 5.27/6, while the control group mean was 4.19/6.
Students Survey: Would you like the idea of conducting post lab real experimentation through the Internet (i.e. from your home PC) after the lab for enhancing your report or testing further ideas? ”. The possible answers were on a marked scale from “1” (not at all) to “6” (very much). Motivation Towards Further Experimentation
The TriLab Concept Integration in Teaching and Learning Stimulation Towards The Hands-on Lab Usefulness of Understanding Classroom Theory Remote Labs Brings the Lab into The Classroom
Implementing Model of Kolb’s Cycle for Lab Education Ha n d s -o n L a b Remote Lab Post-Lab test Class Stimulation Pre Lab Session (Virtual Lab) Pre-Lab test AE, AC, RO CE, RO, AC Constructivist Laboratory Education Model. Higher order learning with AE, AC, RO CE – concrete experience RO – reflective observation AC – abstract conceptualisation AE – active experimentation
Application of Constructivist TriLab Throughout Multiple Years
First year – Process Balances – Dynamic modelling
remote lab in the class
mathematical modelling of the process and experimental verification
Second year – Instrumentation and Control
Remote lab in the class, virtual rig, hands-on, Remote lab based assignment
understanding of instrumentation, calibration, control valves, feedback and qualitative appreciation of PID control and tuning
Final year – Process Control -
Remote Lab in the class and for assignment
in-depth understanding of PID control and control tuning
The paper describes a new model of laboratory education in which virtual, hands-on, and remote access modes are combined (TriLab) to contribute to the learning process of the students based on a sound pedagogical model.
The model also embeds extra lab activities for implementing Kolb’s experiential learning cycle.
We found that poor learning outcome in the classical lab session could be related to poor activation of the prehension dimension in Kolb’s model.