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.-' I I
THE JOURNAL OF CHEMICAL ENGINEERING EDUCATION
Volume 1, Number 3, December 1962
Editor: Robert Lemlich
Associate Editor: Daniel Hershey
Is the Common Core Approach Good
for Chemical Engineering -- C. M. Thatcher 3
A Common Core Curriculum for Chemical
Engineering Undergraduates at the University
of Oklahoma -- A. Cosgarea, Jr. and C. M. Sliepcevich 11
An Interdepartmental Approach to the
Engineering Sciences -- William Licht 22
Designing Core Curricula Based on Principles
of Learning -- D. E. Griffith 31
Information for Contributors and Subscribers 10
The Journal of Chemical Engineering Education is published at
irregular intervals at the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati 21, Ohio
U.S.A. Opinions expressed by contributors are their own and do not
necessarily reflect those of the editor or the University. Annual
subscription: In the U.S.A. and Canada, $2.00; elsewhere, $3.00.
Prepayment is requested. Further information may be found on page 10.
A SPECIAL ISSUE
Last August a .symposium on undergraduate curricula
was held at the national meeting of the American Institute
of Chemical Engineers in Denver, Colorado. The topic
discussed was the Impact of the Common-Core Curriculum in
Chemical Engineering Education.
Four papers were presented at the symposium. Summaries
of several have appeared in Chemical Engineering Progress
and elsewhere. However, in view 'of the interest and
argument associated with the entire notion of the common-
core approach, we felt it worthwhile to publish the four
papers in their entirety. Accordingly, this special issue
of the Journal has been prepared to disseminate these
papers to our readers.
The low cost of operation has left the Journal
with a modest surplus at the close of its first year.
Accordingly, all current 1962 subscribers will automa-
tically receive a continuation subscription for 1963
at no extra cost.
IS THE COMMON CORE APPROACH
GOOD FOR CHEMICAL ENGINEERING?*
C. M. Thatcher
Chairman, Department of Chemical Engineering
Brooklyn 5, N.Y.
Abstract: The practice of teaching engineering science subject matter
to all engineering students in common appears to be growing and has some
iutable advantages. The disadvantages of the approach can be minimized if
chemical engineering teachers participate actively in the development of
proposed common core curricula.
The historical development of the present-day chemical engineering
curriculum has been characterized by a number of turning points of critical
importance. Perhaps the most notable of these, in the eyes of the old-
timers, at least, was the unit operations concept promulgated by the
Little committee in 1922. The incorporation of thermodynamics into
the undergraduate curriculum in the early forties was another milestone.
To suggest that the advent of the common core curriculum is equally
significant may appear to be presumptuous; yet many chemical engineering
departments can already testify to its import from first-hand experience.
Under the circumstances, careful scrutiny of the common core principle and
its potential effect on chemical engineering education is not only appro-
priate but overdue.,
Basically, the term "common core curriculum" refers to that portion
of the curriculum at any given school which is common to all engineering
students, regardless of branch of specialization. So defined it is
hardly a new concept, for common courses in mathematics, physics, English,
and even chemistry have been offered to engineers at most schools for
many years. Such common courses constitute a well-established practice
and need not concern us here. Rather, we shall be concerned with the
relatively recent extension of the common core philosophy to embrace the
teaching of the so-called engineering sciences.
The latter development is an outgrowth of the gradual but distinct
increase in the emphasis given in recent years to theoretical or scientific
principles, with engineering art and practice being correspondingly
*Presented at the A.I.Ch,E. national meeting in Denver, Colorado,
August 1962. Publication release was obtained by the author.
de-emphasized. This trend, which became apparent almost simultaneously
in all major branches of engineering education, has focused new attention
on those fundamental principles of engineering science which are common
to all branches. If one accepts the existence of such fundamental common
principles as a premise, the conclusion is almost inescapable: It should
be possible to provide identical instruction for all engineering students
in those areas of engineering science which are of common interest.
The implementation of this conclusion requires the identification
of broad but well-defined areas which might be amenable to a common treat-
ment. The generally accepted break-down is that proposed in 1955 by a
committee of the American Society for Engineering Education:*
1) Mechanics of solids (statics, dynamics, and strength of
2) Fluid mechanics.
4) Transfer and rate mechanisms or processes (heat, mass, and
5) Electrical theory (fields, circuits, electronics).
6) Nature and properties of materials (relating atomic, particle,
and aggregate structure to properties).
Despite the general acceptance of the foregoing break-down, there was
and still is considerable diversity of opinion regarding the method by
which, and the extent to which, the listed areas should be presented in
courses common to all engineering students. On the one hand there are those
who contend thbt no engineer should specialize in one or more of the above
areas at the expense of any of the others, i.e., that the engineer should
be a generalist insofar as his background in the engineering sciences is
concerned, although he might subsequently choose to apply pertinent
fundamental principles in some particular field of specialization. New
curricula, generally called engineering science or science engineering,
have been formulated along such lines at several schools. To the extent
that their election is optional, such curricula can be considered to be
merely another possible route--however unique--to an engineering degree
and need not be given detailed consideration here.
The alternative view is that all engineers should have some common
background in each of the listed areas of engineering science, but that
each branch of specialization can then supplement this common core with
additional instruction in one or more areas as desired. Thus both
chemical and electrical engineers would receive a common grounding in
thermodynamics and electrical theory, for example, but the chemical
engineers would then go on to study additional thermodynamics whereas
the electrical would concentrate on electrical theory instead. This
is the approach embodied in the common core curriculum as herein defined.
*American Society for Engineering Education, "Report on Evaluation
of Engineering Education," June 15, 1955.
What is gained from such an approach? First, the fundamental import- (
ance of basic scientific principles receives greater emphasis than it
might otherwise, since the heterogeneous interests of common-core students
preclude extensive practical application. As a consequence, the students
are less likely to be inhibited when it comes to envisioning possible
applications of these fundamental principles.
The almost incredible rate at which our technology is advancing at the
present time greatly increases the pertinence of this consequence: Who
can foresee the various ways in which present-day engineering students may
be applying their scientific knowledge five, ten, or twenty years from now?
When the target is so obscure, the common core shot gun would appear to be
a much more logical weapon than the rifle of specialization.
A second advantage arises out of the fact that the growing magnitude
and complexity of engineering problems makes effective communication
between and among specialists essential. Such recent developments as
space flight, fuel cells, and superconductivity near absolute zero clearly
straddle the boundaries separating the conventional branches of engineering,
and there is a corresponding need for engineers who can straddle these
same boundaries. Providing the engineering student with a common-core
background in all areas of engineering science gives him at least some
preparation for future problems which do not lie entirely within his
particular field of specialization and should also facilitate communica-
tion with other specialists when the need arises.
From the administrative standpoint, there is a third advantage of
considerable significance: Teaching the engineering sciences to all
engineers in common requires fewer instructors than are needed to teach
the students in each branch of specialization separately. With the cost
of education in general, and faculty salaries in particular, continually
rising, this consequence of the common core approach has tremendous appeal.
Although the common core curriculum can be credited with making such
economy possible, many educators view with alarm the increasing use of large
lecture sections. Since the question of optimum class size lies outside
the scope of this symposium, we will by-pass the issue by noting that the
common core permits, but does not necessitate, larger classes. Thus larger
classes are an optional feature of common core curricula and should properly
be evaluated separately.
There are two other optional features of the common core curriculum
for which additional advantages are claimed. First, the curriculum is
administered inter-departmentally at many schools, and this often results
in'-th most capable instructors being assigned to the common core courses
without regard for their department of specialization. Inter-departmental
administration can conceivably also produce a stronger course sequence and
stronger courses within the sequence than might be the case when the pro-
gram is administered by a single, separate department. Should such a
department also be a degree-granting department, the possible conflict
of interest is readily apparent. On the other hand. pure service depart-A ,
ments are rarely very. progressive.
Finally, because the common core engineering science courses generally
fall in the sophomore year, engineering students at many schools need not
lect a department of specialization until the beginning of the junior year.
This gives the undecided student additional time to investigate alternative
possibilities and should decrease the chance of his entering a field of
specialization for which he is not best suited.
So much for the major advantages of the common core. Before con-
sidering disadvantages, however, it might be worth noting that most chemical
engineering curricula embraced the basic philosophy long ago. The Schmidt
survey of chemical engineering curricula in 1956* showed mechanics of solids
and electrical theory in the curricula of every accredited department, the
average number of hours devoted to these subjects being 6.8 and 5.0,
respectively. It goes without saying that fluid mechanics, thermodynamics,
and the transfer and rate mechanisms or processes were also given universal
coverage. Only the materials area was slighted in any way, and even this
area was covered in 68 per cent of the accredited curricula.
In view of the foregoing, chemical engineers can hardly object to the
common core approach on philosophical grounds. Rather, we might even take
the view that the other engineering disciplines are finally doing what we
have been doing all along and take such satisfaction as we wish from the
fact that imitation is the highest form of flattery.
On the other hand, it is one thing for a given department to prescribe
its own engineering science program and quite another when a single program
must satisfy several departments. The only answer is compromise, with the
result that none of the departments is likely to accept the final program
as being ideal for its own specific purposes. Whether one or more of the
cited advantages of the common core approach adequately compensate for the
compromise is something which each department must decide for itself; but
the very fact that compromise is necessary obviously weakens each partici-
pating department's overall curriculum to a greater or lesser degree.
Chemical engineering curricula are particularly vulnerable when a com-
promise of this nature is effected. All engineering curricula depend heavily
on a background in physics and mathematics, but chemical engineering--to-
gether with a few related disciplines such as metallurgical engineering--
is unique because of its equally strong dependence on chemistry, Three
full years of chemistry are minimal in most departments, and the junior
and senior years become almost hopelessly congested when chemistry is
displaced from the sophomore yearby a common core curriculum.
Unfortunately, this is a problem which only the chemical engineering
faculty can fully appreciate, and it is all too easily brushed aside by
the overwhelming numerical superiority of the faculties of the physics-
based curricula acting in concert. This is not to suggest that such action
is taken with malice; yet even the most altruistic chemical engineering
department, fully willing to compromise and seeking only to have its peculiar
problems fairly considered, may be accused of being unimaginative,
*Schmidt, A. X., Journal of Engineering Education, 50, No. 1, October,
uncooperative,, and.even reactionary.
The disadvantagous effects of compromise are not felt by chemical
engineers alone, however. If it is agreed that common-core coverage of
a given topic will be adequate for some departments but not for others,
it-immediately follows that most common-core courses must be both pre-
paratory and terminal. The very fact that, for the same general area of
subject matter, service courses and courses designed for departmental
majors have existed separately for so long strongly implies the difficulty
incumbent in designing a course to' serve.both purposes simultaneously.
Careful planning is clearly essential when such courses are merged or
eliminated in favor of a common-core replacement.
Another disadvantage of the common'core--and.it has been found to be
a fairly serious one at more than one school--is the fact that the emphasis
on basic and engineering science during the freshman and sophomore years
postpones the student's contact with the practical application which is
true engineering Few will deny the cardinal importance of developing
te student's engineering judgment, and it is generally recognized that
it must be developed rather than taught. Are we not wasting valuable time
if this development is not initiated until the beginning of the junior year?
In contrast, it can be stated with some assurance that one of the major
strengths of chemical engineering curricula generally has been the student's
early exposure, through the medium of mass and energy balance problems, to
the importance of judgment as an attribute in engineering. The engineering
approach to problem analysis and solution is also introduced here and is no
less important to the student's early professional development. The con-
sequences of postponing these experiences can hardly be ignored.
It is more than likely that many a successful chemical engineer re-
ceived his first real motivation toward his profession in the same
introductory engineering course. In view of the current concern over
engineering enrollments and dropouts, it is somewhat surprising that so
many engineering educators are willing to ignore engineering completely
in favor of pure science for fully half of a student's college career.
Certainly more than a few potential engineers have been lost to mathe-
matics, physics, or chemistry by just such scheduling.
The fact that the so-called engineering sciences are almost entirely
physics-oriented should also concern chemical engineers. When chemistry
is almost totally ignored in a common-core sophomore year, as is all too
often the case, the student intending a career in chemical engineering may
easily lose interest and become discouraged. The absence of any day-to-
day contact with chemical subject matter may even result in the loss of
prospective chemical engineers-to other departments of specialization.
In any event, there is a significant loss in continuity as far as chemistry
is concerned, and the overall effectiveness of the chemical engineering
curriculum can only be reduced.
There are several things a chemical engineering department can do
to minimize the possible adverse consequences of a common-core curriculum.
First, it should be sure that its own house is in good order. If the
chemical engineering curriculum is strong and its strength is freely
acknowledged by the students and faculty of the other departments as
well as by the administration, it is not likely to be radically altered
solely to bring it into line with a common core curriculum imposed from
At the same time, it must be recognized that there are often several
acceptable routes to a given objective, and that the important considera-
tion is the objective itself rather than how it is achieved. It is most
unfortunate that we all too often become so engrossed in what we are doing
that we lose sight of why we are doing. Even the strong department must
therefore be able to identify those particular objectives of its curriculum
which are critical to its success. Only then can it take a firm stand
when a common core compromise is being hammered out.
As a distinct minority group vis-a-vis the physics-oriented dis-
ciplines, chemical engineering may be asked to swallow a bitter common-
core pill even when the department's health and vigor are unquestioned.
The ideal solution in such an event would seem to be to face realistically
the fact that chemistry-oriented and physics-oriented disciplines are not
necessarily amenable to a completely common approach. This being the case,
why should there not be some compromise of the common core itself, with
chemical engineering participating to the fullest possible extent but
going its separate way when necessary?
Alternately, complete participation may be feasible if the common
core courses can be moved about as desired within the chemical engineering
curriculum. For example, a sophomore-level, common-core course in
mechanics might more logically be deferred until the junior year in
chemical engineering, thereby making room in the sophomore year for
additional preparation in chemistry. Common core courses in electrical
theory and properties of materials might be similarly displaced as
This solution to the problem of compromise could make it possible
for a chemical engineering department to embrace the common core approach
with only minor adjustments. As was noted earlier, most departments al-
ready provide instruction in all those areas of subject matter included
in the common core. If so, a few changes in subject matter and perhaps
course credits for courses outside the common core should permit the
complete assimilation of all common core courses and leave the overall
curriculum much as it was before.
The only real objection to such an arrangement is the fact that it
separates the student body into chemical engineers and non-chemical
engineers at the beginning of the sophomore year. The undecided student
may therefore reject chemical engineering in favor of an additional year
for deliberation, but it is unlikely that chemical engineering enroll-
ments will suffer unduly as a consequence of this possibility. Still,
where possible, it would certainly seem advisable to provide for transfers
both into and out of chemical engineering at the end of the sophomore year,
with little or.no loss of credit to those studen-cs electing to transfer.
A third solution to the compromise .problem is to. convince the
physics-oriented departments that, to paraphrase. Engine Charlie Wilson,
what is good for chemical engineering is equally good for engineering
in general. We refer specifically to.physical chemistry, which many
agree is as essential to a general background in science as are mechanics,
electrical .theory, and the others. It is noteworthy that the common core
curricula recently introduced at a few schools do include physical
chemistry for all engineering students. Were this to become universal
practice, chemical engineering's problems with respect to the common
core would be greatly alleviated.
Of those disadvantages of the common core approach which affect not
only chemical engineering but all other participating departments as well,
probably the most significant is the absence of any real engineering
studies in the common core. The solution here is obvious tne common
curriculum should include one or more courses specifically designed to
acquaint the student with the engineering approach to problem analysis
and solution, to make him aware of the pertinence of economic factors,
and to initiate the development of engineering judgment.
The formulation of the engineering portion of the common curriculum
will be far from easy if the subject matter is to be entirely non-depart-
mental. However, we believe that there exists within each engineering
discipline a wide variety of problems suitable for such use and suggest
further that the students' versatility within a subsequent field of
specialization could be greatly extended by contact with problems lying
outside that field, even when the problems are somewhat elementary of
As for the problem of designing a common core course which is
simultaneously preparatory and terminal, we submit that these two ob-
jectives are not necessarily incompatible. Terminal courses tend to
sacrifice depth of coverage for scope, thereby giving the student an
overall view of the subject matter. The student who then moves on to
more advanced study in the same area will unavoidably be subjected to
some repetition, but this is one of the fundamental aspects of effective
teaching. Furthermore, the background provided by the overall exposure
will permit him to learn new subject matter in context and should serve
to emphasize the interrelationships between and among various subjects.
In short, resolution of the terminal-preparatory dilemma may well turn
disadvantage into advantage.
In summary, the basic philosophy underlying the common core approach,
i.e., that a broad background in the engineering sciences should supplement
specialization, has long been a salient feature of chemical engineering
curricula. Further, experience has shown that chemical engineering stu-
dents can benefit substantially by receiving this background in common
with students from other disciplines. And, finally, the major dis-
advantages of a common core curriculum can be minimized or even eliminated
entirely by realistic planning in which chemical engineering's peculiar
problems are fully recognized.
We therefore submit that the common core approach can and should be
good for chemical engineering provided chemical engineers participate
actively in its development so as to avoid the weaknesses cited herein.
The only alternative may well be to have a common core curriculum imposed
from without, for all the signs point to the rapid spread of the common
core whether chemical engineers drag their feet, sit idly by, or con-
tribute positive leadership. Only in the latter event can we be sure that
the common core approach is and will be good for chemical engineering.
INFORMATION FOR CONTRIBUTORS
Full length articles, shorter communications, and letters to the
editor are solicited. Contributions must be original, of course, and
must deal with subject matter of interest in chemical engineering educa-
tion. Naturally, material that has been published elsewhere, or is
being considered for publication elsewhere, is not acceptable. (However,
a paper that has been merely presented orally at a meeting will be
considered provided the author has obtained an appropriate release from
the society or other group that sponsored the meeting).
Manuscript typing should be double spaced. Three copies should
be mailed directly to the editor. Full length papers should include
a brief abstract.
Authors of manuscripts accepted for publication receive 20
reprints free of charge.
The subscription rate to The Journal of Chemical Engineering Education
is $2.00 per year in the U.S.A. and Canada, and $3.00 per year elsewhere.
Payment should accompany the subscription order. Checks should be made
payable to the University of Cincinnati which acts as repository for the
funds, and mailed together with the subscription order directly to:
The Journal of Chemical Engineering Education
University of Cincinnati
Cincinnati 21, Ohio
A COMMON CORE CURRICULUM FOR
CHEMICAL ENGINEERING UNDERGRADUATES
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA
A. Cosgarea, Jr..
Associate Professor of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering
C. M. Sliepcevich
Associate Dean of the College of Engineering
University of Oklahoma
Abstract: Since 1960, the undergraduate curricula in engineering at
the University of Oklahoma has been based on a common core for which
approximately 75 per cent of the course requirements for graduation are
identical, regardless of the field of specialization. The experiences
in developing the curriculum in chemical engineering, based on this
core, are discussed. The present curriculum in chemical engineering
is presented and evaluated.
Curricula in engineering have been in an almost constant state of
flux during the past decade. Most of the activity has been directed
toward providing more training in mathematics and the physical sciences
at the expense of the conventional, professional-type engineering courses.
The principal difficulty has been in introducing these basic courses
sufficiently early in the program so that they can serve as bonafide
prerequisites for the engineering courses without seriously penalizing
the sequence needed to achieve the depth in training required by the
various areas of specialization.
The present curriculum in engineering at the University of Oklahoma
consists of a common core of courses in the basic and engineering sciences,
humanities, grammar, and speech which comprise approximately 75 per cent
of the requirements for graduation. The remaining 25 per cent is devoted
for the most part to the pragmatic engineering design and analysis courses
in the various departments of specialization.
*Presented at the A.I.Ch.E. national meeting in Denver, Colorado,
August 1962. Publication release was obtained by the authors.
This common core and the chemical engineering curriculum which has
been built upon it will be described and evaluated.
The Development and Implementation of the Core Curriculum
The stage for the modern core curriculum in engineering was set by
the famous Grinter report in 1955. Briefly, this study concluded that
in addition to the basic sciences all engineers should have a sound
background in the engineering sciences: thermodynamics, structure and
properties of materials, electrical engineering, mechanics, heat trans-
fer, and fluid mechanics. To these requirements a minimum program in the
humanities and the basic tools, grammar, speech, and graphics were
specified. Essentially these recommendations were simply a reiteration
of the common ingredients in engineering curricula from the earliest in-
ception; however it questioned the desirability and validity of presenting
the engineering sciences from a specialized, departmental point of view
rather than from a basic approach. For example, the traditional intro-
ductory course in thermodynamics which originally had been offered to all
engineers as a "service course" by the department of mechanical engineering
was now splintered and was being offered by half a dozen different depart-
ments from a much more specialized point of view. Nevertheless, the
Grinter report constituted the basis for accreditation of all engineering
curricula under the auspices of the Engineers' Council for Professional
In 1958, a number of committees were established in the College of
Engineering at the University of Oklahoma to evaluate the contents of all
courses which treated subject matter common to all of the engineering
disciplines. These committees concluded that there was no more justifica-
tion for duplication of the courses in the engineering sciences than in the
The next step was to prepare a tentative "core" curriculum at the
college, rather than departmental level, which eliminated all course
duplications and which at the same time satisfied the minimum accredita-
tion requirements. This curriculum was then referred to the individual
departments of specialization for evaluation. Comments and criticisms
were then collected in the Dean's office, whereupon another curriculum
was devised and referred to the individual departments. After numerous
revisions a final core curriculum was evolved which was acceptable to all
of the departments of specialization. Basically, the final version of
the curriculum consists of approximately 75 per cent of the courses
common to all divisions of engineering; the remaining 25 per cent is
reserved for the department of specialization to specify.
In January 1960, the College of Engineering approved the new curr.ic-
ulum applicable to every degree-granting department in the college except
Architecture. The latter was excluded because its accreditation require-
ments were significantly different from the rest of the college. The
departments included in the core curriculum are: Aeronautical and Space,
Chemical, Civil, Electrical, Engineering Physics, Geological, General,
Industrial Management, Mechanical, Metallurgical, and Petroleum.
The decision to enact the core curriculum abruptly, rather than
phasing it in gradually, was dictated purely by economics. The anticipated
budget for the College of Engineering would not support the simultaneous
offering of the existing and new curricula. For those students already
in progress under the old curricula, it was left to each department of
specialization to evaluate and approve appropriate substitutions so that
no student would be penalized by the adoption of the new curriculum.
Purpose of the Core Curriculum
A number of objectives can be achieved by the core curriculum, one
of the most important of which is anticipated improvement in the quality
of instruction, particularly in the basic or core engineering courses,
More frequently than not the typical departmental service course has a
tendency to degenerate to a necessary but unwanted responsibility. As a
result, dissatisfied departments establish and teach their own courses.
To avoid such proliferation the common core courses in engineering are
not listed under a particular department but simply under Engineering.
Committees selected from the College as a whole administer the core
courses and are responsible to the College rather than to a department.
However, each department is required to supply its most qualified
instructors for the core courses. It is proposed that eventually every
member of the faculty in the College of Engineering will have, at one
time or another, taught most of the core courses. Each semester the
committees for the various core courses meet with the departmental chair-
man to review the course contents and to agree on revisions.
Other foreseeable advantages of the core are as follows:
1. Turning out engineers who are better equipped to cope with the
rapid advances in science and technology. The core is designed to give
a common, sound foundation in the engineering sciences, and it leaves the
important responsibility of developing the professional engineering view-
point to the department of specialization in the junior and senior level
2. Improving the quality of the courses offered by:
a. Making maximum utilization of the specialized talents of
the faculty in the core courses.
b. Relieving the monotony experienced by some of the staff, who
heretofore have drawn heavy, service-course teaching loads,
by spreading this responsibility more equitably throughout
c. Promoting the revision of the higher level courses in the
departments of specialization to take advantage of the
fundamentals presented in the core courses.
3. Stimulating interest, communication and cooperation among the
various departments at both the student and faculty levels.
4. Meeting accreditation requirements by placing the responsibility
at the college, rather than departmental, level.
5. Effecting economies by
a. Eliminating course duplications,
b. Reducing the projected needs of staff expansion by resorting
to mass-lectures and small-recitations in the core courses
for which past studies and experiments have shown to be
definitely practical and feasible.
c. Increasing classroom and laboratory utilization.
6. Improving the stature of the College of Engineering by
a. Providing a mechanism for continuously updating requirements
and modernizing curricula,
b. Assuring growth of the graduate and research divisions.
c. Recruiting new staff according to the subject area of
speciality rather than by department of specialization.
7. Providing incentive for high schools to upgrade their academic
requirements. (High schools in Oklahoma are proposing to increase the
requirements for graduation from sixteen to eighteen units, of which at
least sixteen must be classed as academic solids.)
The core curriculum is designed to meet the minimum requirements
for accreditation. Beyond this point, each department of specialization
is free to impose any additional requirements which it feels necessary
to assure a depth of training in at least one area by emphasizing the
engineering approach to the solution of problems: engineering analysis,
design, and economics.
All undergraduate students majoring in .a professional engineering
program of The College of Engineering must satisfactorily complete the
curriculum outlined below:
Calculus, differential equations, 17 hours
Chemistry (general and physical) 8
English Composition 6
Engineering Graphics 3
Physics (general and modern) 10
Engineering 21, 104, 112, 142, 144, 29
145, 146, 221, 251, 252, 253, 254
Military Science or Equivalent 4-8
U. S. History 3
U. S. Government 3
Additional Humanistic-Social studies 12
Advanced Chem. or Physics 3
Advanced Analysis Elective 3
Professional Course Requirements and 26-42
TOTAL CURRICULUM HOURS 129-149
Engineering Course Descriptions (Common Core)
21 Introduction to Engineering. 1 hour.
Prerequisite, College Algebra and trigonometry. Lectures on
selected problems in the various branches of engineering, in-
cluding use of the slide rule, problem recording and presenta-
tion, curve plotting, engineering. Standards and terminology,
use of the library and other engineering reference sources.
Representatives of the different schools and departments
cooperate in offering this course for freshmen who plan to
enter the College.
104 Thermodynamics. 4 hours.
Prerequisites, calculus and general physics. An introductory
course in thermodynamics in which the first and second laws
of thermodynamics are developed and applied to the solution of
problems from a variety of engineering fields. Extensive use
is made of partial differential calculus to interrelate the
112 Structure and Properties of Materials. 3 hours. Prerequisites,
General Chemistry and physics. An introductory course in the
structure and properties of solids. The behavior of materials
under various conditions and environments are correlated to
atomic and molecular structure and bonding.
142 Electrical Circuits and Machinery. 3 hours.
Prerequisites, Differential equations and General physics.
Circuit analysis; alternating currents and voltages; introduction
to poly-phase A.C. systems; introduction to power transmission
and distribution; electric machinery.
144 Engineering Laboratory A. 1 hour
Prerequisite, concurrent enrollment in 142. The theory and
practice of instrumentation, as demonstrated by laboratory
practice. Laboratory techniques. Simple experiments in
electrical machinery and electronics. Report writing.
145 Instrumentation and Analogs. 2 hours.
Prerequisite, 142. Rectification characteristics; electronic
components; simplification; modulation; feed back systems;
introduction to instrumentation.
146 Engineering Laboratory B. 1 hour.
Prerequisites, 112, 144, and concurrent enrollment in 252 (see
below). Utilization of instruments for engineering purposes as
exemplifed by surveying techniques applied both to land measure-
ment and to industrial machinery location. Measurement of the
properties of materials by use of several instrumental techniques.
Interpretation of engineering data.
291. IHat Transfer and Fluid Mechanics. 4 hours.
Prerequisites, 104 and differential equations. Effects of fluid
inertia, weight, and viscosity; general concepts of transfer
and rate processes; rate equations including equilibrium,
resistance, and conductance considerations; steady state and
unsteady state heat transfer; momentum and mass transfer.
251 Statics. 2 hours.
Prerequisite, calculus. Vector representation of forces and
moments; vector addition, subtraction and multiplication; general
three dimensional theorems of statics; two and three force
members; free bodies; two and three dimensional statically
determinate frames; centroids and moments of inertia of areas;
elementary fluid statics; shear and bending moment equations
252 Strength of Materials. 3 hours.
Prerequisite, 251. Elementary elasticity and Hooke's law;
Poisson's ratio; solution of elementary one and two dimensional
statically indeterminate problems; stresses and strains due to
temperature changes; stresses induced by direct loading, bending
and shear; deflection of beams; area-moment and moment dis-
tribution; combined stresses; structural members of two materials;
253 Dynamics. 3 hours.
Prerequisite, 251. Absolute motion of a particle; rectilinear
and curvilinear velocities and accelerations; principles of
relativity in particle motion; motion of rigid bodies; rotating
axes and the Coriolis component of acceleration; Newton's laws
applied to translating and rotating particles and rigid bodies
with mass; principles of work and energy and impulse and
momentum in translation and rotation; motion with variable mass;
moments of inertia of masses.
254 Engineering Laboratory C. 2 hours.
Prerequisites 104 and 146. Thermodynamic application of heat,
and energy balances. Transport of heat, mass and momentum.
Comparison of results of physical test to analog solutions.
The major emphasis of this laboratory will be toward developing
a proper conception of the problems of experimental design and
the analysis of test results in drawing proper conclusions.
In developing the core courses, particular attention was given to
making the sequence as flexible as possible. For example, students
majoring in electrical engineering take the two introductory courses in
electrical engineering science, 142 and 145, and defer the structure of
materials, 112, in order to accommodate the sequence of specialized,
advanced courses in electrical engineering within the 8-semester program
leading to the bachelor's degree. Chemical and metallurgical engineers
ordinarily will take 112 before 142, etc. On the other hand, it is apparent
from the above that certain core courses are mandatory prerequisites for
succeeding core courses. Thermodynamics, 104, must precede the common
course in physical chemistry; therefore it is possible to cover much more
material in physical chemistry than ordinarily is the case where a sub-
stantial amount of time is devoted in physical chemistry to classical
Although the prerequisites for heat transfer and fluid mechanics (221)
are thermodynamics (104, in which the emphasis has been laid on the
generalized mass and energy balances) and differential equations it is
desirable that the student also has completed mechanics (251, in which
emphasis has been given to vector notation).
The most important feature of the core courses are the engineering
laboratories (144, 146, and 254) in which the student is introduced to
the basic theory and principles of measurement, analysis, interpretation,
and evaluation of data, design of experiments, and report writing. Labora-
tory experiments are carefully selected from all the various engineering
disciplines, and no segregation of the students in the laboratory classes
according to areas of specialization is permitted. These laboratories can
either make or break the core curriculum.
Chemical Engineering Curricula
In addition to the courses in the physical sciences and the above
described core engineering sequence, the undergraduate chemical engineer
takes 19 credit hours of professional courses in chemical engineering. This
program includes a course in thermodynamics to study multi-component systems,
systems in which a chemical reaction occurs, and other applications of
thermodynamics to chemical engineering. Complex material balances and the
extension of such calculations to the prediction of the number of ideal
stages in a contacting device constitutes another course. The principles
of fluid flow, heat transfer, and mass transfer are extended to chemical
engineering applications in a third course. In another, the usefulness of
mathematically describing chemical engineering operations with differential
equations is presented. Finally, in the senior year, a six hour design
sequence ties together a student's technical training by requiring design
of entire plants and estimation of capital and manufacturing costs.
Application of fundamental knowledge obtained in other courses is
emphasized. Chemical reaction kinetics is also taught in the design
courses to allow incorporation of chemical reactor design as part of
A complete breakdown of the 1961-62 curriculum in Chemical Engineering
is shown on the following page:
Math 22, Calculus &
Chem. 3, General (1)
English 21, Composition
Military Sci. or Equivalent
1 or 2
16 or 17
Math 103, Calculus &
Physics 51, General
English 22, Composition (2)
Engr. 21, Introduction
Military Sci. or Equiv.
Math 104, Calculus & Diff.
Physics 52, General
Engr. 104, Thermodynamics
Chem. 17, Analytical
Military Sci. or Equiv.
1 or 2
17 or 18
Math 201, Adv. Engr. Math
Chem. 251, Physical Chem.
Chem. 255, Phys. Chem.
Engr. 112, Structure & Prop-
erties of Materials
Engr. 142, Electrical Cir-
cuits and Machinery
Engr. 144, Engr. Lab. A
Military Sci. or Equiv.
Chem. 252, Phys. Chem.
Chem. 258, Phys. Chem.
Engr. 146, Engr. Lab. B
Engr. 221, Heat Transfer &
Engr. 251, Statics
Ch.E. 140, Chem. Engr.
Humanistic and Social Studies
3 Engr. 145, Instrumentation
1 and Analogs
Engr. 252, Strength of Mat.
1 Ch.E. 217, Chem. Engr.
Ch.E. 220, Unit Operations
2 Analysis Elective (4)
4 Humanistic and Soc. Studies
1 or 2
17 or 18
1 or 2
16 or 17
Chem. 103, Organic Chem. 5 Chem. 104, Organic Chem. 3
Engr. 253, Dynamics 3 Ch.E. 325, Chem. Engr. 4
Engr. 254, Engr. Lab. C 2 Design II
Ch.E. 310, Rate Operations 3 Humanistic and Soc. Studies 9
Ch.E. 324, Chem. Engr. 2 Electives (3)
Design I 16
Humanistic and Soc. Studies 3
18 Total: 135 139 hours
(1) Chemistry 1 and 2 (8 hours) may be substituted for Chemistry 3 (5 hours).
(2) Upon recommendation of the English Department, a student, after completing
Eng. 21, may satisfy the Eng. 22 requirement by an advanced standing
examination given by the English Department.
(3) Must include 6 hours of U.S. History and Government and other courses
selected from the College of Engineering List of Acceptable Electives in
the Area of Humanistic-Social Studies subject to the approval of the
(4) Should be selected from a math course beyond 201, engineering analysis,
or computer science.
Chemical Engineering Course Descriptions
140 Chemical Engineering Fundamentals 4 hours. Text: Hougen, Watson,
and Ragatz, Chemical Process Principles, Part I, (first 8 weeks).
Mathematical Procedures, Behavior of Ideal Gases, Stoichiometric and
Composition Relations, Vapor Pressures, Humidity and Saturation,
Solubility and Crystallization, and Material Balances.
Text: Foust et al., Principles of Unit Operations, (second 7 weeks).
Mass Transfer Operations, Phase Relationships, Equilibrium Stage
Calculations, Counter-current Multistage Operations, Counter-current
Multistage Operations with Reflux, and Simplified Calculation Methods.
217 Chemical Engineering Thermodynamics 3 hours.
Text: Class Notes, Reference Texts, and Tables.
Equilibrium Criteria, Phase Change, Phase Equilibria, Ideal Solutions,
Non-Ideal Solutions, Chemical Reactions, Chemical Equilibria, Entropy
of Molecular Species, Electrochemistry, and Process Analysis.
220 Unit Operations 3 hours.
Text: Foust et al., Principles of Unit Operations.
Bernoulli, Equation, Flow in Pipes, Ducts and Fittings, Pumps; Heat
Transfer, Convection, Heat Exchangers, Radiant Heat Transfer; Mass
Transfer, Transfer Coefficients.
310 Rate Operations 3 hours.
Text: Class Notes and Bird, Stewart and Lightfoot, Transport Phenomena,
Mass Balances, Energy Balances, Momentum Balances, Transport Properties,
Profiles, Turbulent Flow, Unsteady State, Kinetics, and Chemical Reactors.
324 Chemical Engineering Design I 2 hours.
Text: Vilbrandt et al., Chemical Engineering Plant Design.
Process Equipment Design Heat Exchangers (Balancing of area versus
pressure drop methods), Vapor-Liquid Contacting Devices (Packed and
plate columns prediction of tray efficiencies, etc.), Pumps and
Compressors, Materials of Construction, and Piping Layout.
325 Chemical Engineering Design II 4 hours.
Texts: Happel, Chemical Process Economics; Chilton, Cost Engineering in
The Process Industries; Notes on Reaction Kinetics and Reactor Design.
Capital Cost Estimation, Manufacturing Cost Estimation, Investment Worth
of Project, Process Flow Sheets, Instrumentation of Process Equipment,
Reaction Kinetics and Reactor Design, Simple Unit Design, and Plant design.
The emphasis on the undergraduate program in Chemical Engineering has
been placed on (1) presenting the students with courses designated to equip
them with a solid foundation in the basic sciences of mathematics, chemistry
and physics, and acquainting the students with the application of these
fundamental principles to the solution of engineering problems; and (2) in-
corporating high standards in all courses to challenge the best students and
discourage those who are not qualified to be chemical engineers.
It is conceded that the above curriculum does not represent the ultimate
in engineering education. The specific details and course breakdowns are
somewhat unique to the University of Oklahoma and represent a practical limit
in terms of its available facilities and faculty capabilities. There is no
such thing as an "ideal" curriculum applicable to all institutions. The best
curriculum is one in which the individual talents of the faculty and the
facilities of the university are utilized to the fullest extent. A mere
sequence of course offerings which purport to fulfill accreditation require-
ments does not assure that the end product, the student, will be superior.
On the other hand, the experiences with the core curriculum concept
at the University of Oklahoma has revealed that its highest point of merit
lies in its administrative structure which is conducive to a continuing
program of self-evaluation with a unity of purpose. Even though the core
curriculum tends to reduce somewhat the identity of individual departments
to administrative, budgetary units, it does leave the responsibility for
providing the specialized training in depth to the departments.
In conclusion the decision to reshuffle and streamline engineering
curricula to a 4-year program rather than increase it arbitrarily to a
5-year program has been a wise one indeed. Had the latter alternative been
taken, the net result would have been--in far more cases than not--to
compound the inadequacies and proliferations of existing courses without
realizing any improvements in the offerings. It is now apparent that the
engineering courses have been stripped to the bone. Further progress is
not forthcoming until those who are responsible for the basic courses in
mathematics, physics, and chemistry take the same attitude as engineering
faculty have in their revisions of the engineering courses. Engineering
faculty have let themselves fall into the popular misconception that the
pure sciences are sacred and have been for the last 50-years. A more
enlightened approach to the teaching of mathematics at the freshmen level
could easily eliminate the need for the eighteen semester hours of
hodgepodge in general physics and chemistry to.which most engineering
students are now being subjected. There still seems to be a reluctance
among the pure scientist to take advantage of the significantly better
preparation in the sciences by the high school graduate who elects engin-
eering as a career. With such a reawakening, it is conceivable that a
"better engineer" can be trained in 3-years than is presently being done in
4-years. However, it is not intended to imply that engineering curricula
should be shortened to 3-years. The fourth year could, and should, be
devoted to more emphasis on practical design and analysis; it is only
through the latter that engineering judgment can be taught and instilled
in the end product, something that is distinctly lacking in the modern-
day engineering graduate.
Finally, contrary to existing beliefs, modern engineering curricula
are not geared to the superior student. On the contrary, modern curricula
raise the average level of competence of all engineering graduates. It is
impossible to impair the development of a truly outstanding student .either
by a curriculum or in a particular institution. He invariably survives in
spite of an inimical environment.
AN INTERDEPARTMENTAL APPROACH TO THE
Head, Department of .Chemical Engineering and Metallurgical Engineering
University of Cincinnati
Cincinnati 21, Ohio
- a m m m m - - - - - - -
Abstract: A plan is described for administering a program of common
core courses in the engineering sciences. The plan involves sharing all
responsibilities among the existing departmental groups by means of an
interdepartmental committee for each course. The experience of several
years of operation is reviewed, with the results in chemical engineering
discussed in some detail.
The College of Engineering at the University of Cincinnati has de-
veloped a plan for the organization and administration of basic courses
in the engineering sciences which it believes is quite unique. At the
same time this plan also offers an answer to some of the problems raised
by the concept of the common core undergraduate curriculum for all
branches of engineering.
This College offers undergraduate curricula leading to degrees in
six branches: aerospace, civil, chemical, electrical, mechanical, and
metallurgical engineering. All undergraduate students are on the co-
operative plan; there is no option for full-time attendance. Undergrad-
uate curriculum plans are developed under the Educational Council, a
body of some 25 faculty members representing all departments of the
College. This body refers its recommendations first to the Administra-
tive Council made up of department heads and ultimately to the faculty
as a whole for final adoption.
Beginning in 1963 the quarter calendar will be used throughout the
University with the school periods being "quarters" of 10 or 11 weeks
each. There will be twelve school quarters and seven work periods in
industry comprising a five-year co-op engineering course. In the
freshman year and in the latter half of the senior year there will be
no work periods. Although the plan to be described has been in opera-
tion for several years on another type of calendar, it is unnecessary
for an exposition of the plan to give the details of that calendar.
Rather it will be presented in terms of the new calendar.
*Presented at the A.I.Ch.E. national meeting in Denver, Colorado,
August 1962. Publication release was obtained by the author.
ORIGIN OF THE PLAN
The plan arose out of discussions on how best to implement the
recommendations of the report on "Evaluation of Engineering Educa-
tion", commonly referred to as the Grinter report, published by the
American Society for Engineering Education in 1955. Among other
things this report recognized and defined six areas of scientific
knowledge basic to engineering and recommended their inclusion to
some degree in every engineering curriculum. Based upon the funda-
mentals of physics, chemistry, and mathematics, these engineering sci-
ences are generally identified as:
1) Mechanics of solids (statics, dynamics, and strength of
2) Mechanics of fluids
3) Transfer and rate mechanisms (heat, mass, and momentum
5) Electrical theory
6) Nature and properties of materials.
They have been discussed more fully in a later report (1956) on The Engi-
nrtring Sciences, also published by the A.S.E.E.
In our discussion it was noted that a large body of such material
was already being taught in most of our six curricula. For example,
each department took a "service" course in electrical principles from
the electrical engineering department but no two of these courses were
alike in length or content. Why shouldn't they be?--Every department
had its students in the freshman and sophomore years take identical
courses in statics and dynamics, given by the Department of Mathematics
and Mechanics. But although all departments had required some work in
strength of materials, there were two or three different courses in this
subject offered by the Mathematics and Mechanics Department.--Several
departments (aerospace, civil, chemical, mechanical)-..each gave their
own courses in fluid mechanics. These courses although basically
similar, varied in length and scope of applications taught. The same
situation existed with respect to thermodynamics.-Heat transfer was
taught in some part of each of several departmental courses given by
aerospace, chemical, mechanical and metallurgical departments each to
their own students.--Most departments required their students to take
some metallurgy varying in amounts according to which of several ser-
vice courses offered by that staff was specified. Other engineering
materials were largely neglected, although there had once been a de-
scriptive course on materials of construction long-since abandoned.
From a survey of this situation a basic premise of the new plan
emerged. This is, that there now exists in each of the recognized
areas of engineering science, a body of basic knowledge or principles
which is so widespread in application to all kinds of engineering prob-
lems as to be important in every type of engineering work. If this be
true, it is justification for requiring students in every curriculum
to study the same basic body of principles in one and the same course.
Obviously the several branches do differ in the kind of applications
to be made of these basic principles. The question then became one of
determining where the basic common body of principles ends and where
the diversity of application begins. It seemed to us that it should
not be difficult to get all the departments to agree on where to draw
this line between common and specialized interests. Upon this basis
tlien we should be able to frame a set of common core courses covering
the "basic" aspects of the engineering sciences.
As a precedent for this view we may take the case of mechanics of
solids (statics, kinetics, and dynamics). For many, many years it has
been generally accepted that every engineering student should have a
basic course in this subject, whether as a part of his studies in
physics, or as a separate course. For a long time there has been
scarcely any debate in engineering academic circles over the content
of such a course. Historically speaking, solid mechanics seems to
have been the first of the engineering science areas to be recognized
for its universal importance in all engineering applications.
As time passed, each of the other six basic engineering sciences
has reached a state of development where a well-defined and well-
understood set of basic principles has been established and could be
identified as of almost universal importance. Our problem then was
simply to state explicitly the boundaries of this universal set of
principles, and then we could move into the same situation in each
of the other fields as already was so well established for solid me-
chanics. As time goes on we may expect the same type of development
to continue, so that we have more and more common areas of basic know-
ledge for all engineering.
The cornerstone of the plan then is to define one basic course
in each of the six presently recognized areas of engineering science
and to require this course to be included in every degree program. A
corollary of this premise, is that each department wishing to go far-
ther in a particular engineering science than the basic course, e.g.
chemical engineers taking more chemical thermodynamics, might develop
and give to its own students (or arrange for appropriate service
courses) second level courses following and building upon the basic
The Educational Council recommended that there be six new common
"basic engineering science" courses titled as follows:
1. Basic Thermodynamics
2. Basic Fluid Mechanics
3. Basic Heat Transfer
4. Strength of Materials
5. Electrical Science and Engineering
6. Nature and Properties of Materials.
The former collection of service courses and departmental courses in
each of these areas was to be abandoned. It was agreed that the ex-
isting common courses in Statics and Dynamics would remain unchanged.
Two concessions to the principle of completely common courses were
made. One, that some departments might take a shorter course in
Strength of Materials than others, and two, that electrical engineer-
ing students would not take the common course in Electrical Science
To develop each of the basic courses, the interdepartmental ap-
proach was made as follows. Each of the six basic courses was assigned
to a particular department to administer. To draw up the syllabus for
each course a committee was appointed consisting of one representative
from each of the six degree granting departments, plus representatives
from the Department of Physics and the Department of Mathematics and
Mechanics. The chairman of the committee was the representative of
the "administering" department. Each member of each committee was se-
lected by his department head for his competence in the given field.
In this way an attempt was made to include the viewpoint of every de-
The course committees are responsible for drawing up the detailed
syllabus for each course and selecting the textbook. They meet peri-
odically to review the operation and modify the course outlines as
experience and new developments may indicate.
OPERATION OF THE PLAN
Slight modifications in the original assignment of administrative
responsibility for the courses have recently been made. Under the
quarter calendar, the line-up will be as follows:
Course Administrative Department
Strength of Materials Civil Engineering
Basic Fluid Mechanics Aerospace
Basic Heat Transfer Chemical Engineering
Basic Thermodynamics Mechanical Engineering
Electrical Science and Engineering Electrical Engineering
Nature and Properties of Materials Metallurgical Engineering
It is of course a fortunate coincidence to have the same number
of departments as there are courses, for in this way each department
has an equal responsibility and challenge to develop leadership in at
least one field of engineering science,
It is the responsibility of the respective department heads to see
that well-qualified instructors are assigned to each section of each
course and to coordinate the scheduling of courses and instructors.
However, a cardinal principle is that instructors should be drawn from
as many departments as have qualified persons available. Naturally in
many instances these would be some of the same faculty members who com-
prise the course committees. In this way the effort is made to have
the teaching as truly interdepartmental as possible. The tabulation
shows the extent to which this has been achieved:
Course Instructors from:
Strength of Materials Civil, aerospace, mechanics
Basic Fluid Mechanics Aerospace, chemical, civil,
mechanical, and mechanics
Basic Heat Transfer Chemical, aerospace, mechanical
Basic Thermodynamics Mechanical, chemical
Electrical Science and Engineering Electrical
Nature and Properties of Materials Metallurgical, chemical, physics
All instructors follow the same outline, although naturally there will be
minor variations according to individual viewpoints. The widespread
participation of people from as many departments as possible (both in the
planning and teaching) is the key to keeping all departments happy with
their joint venture.
Each course does not occur in each degree curriculum at the same
point. For example, basic thermodynamics will be taken by aerospace
students in the second quarter of the second year, by chemical stu-
dents in the first quarter of the third year, by mechanical students
in the second quarter of the third year, and by electrical students in
the first quarter of the fourth year. Basic strength of materials will
be taken by aerospace students in the first quarter of the third year,
by chemical students in the third quarter of their fifth year, by civil
students in the second quarter of the second year, and by metallurgical
students in the first quarter of the fourth year. Similar variations
occur with the other courses. However, certain sequences and pre-
requisites are maintained. Basic thermodynamics precedes basic fluid
mechanics which in turn precedes basic heat transfer. Basic strength
of materials follows Statics and Dynamics. Nature and Properties of
Materials follows general chemistry, physics, and mechanics, and pre-
cedes courses in metallurgy and physical chemistry.
A consequence of this schedule array and the need to give each
course to from 200 to 400 co-op students each year, is that each
course will be offered in every quarter of the year. This affords
greater.flexibility in preparing student schedules. It also yields
the by-product advantage of making it easier for students to repeat
a course when the need arises.
EXPERIENCE AND MODIFICATION
As the courses were originally planned they were strictly of the
lecture-recitation type. No general provision was made for laboratory
work except in connection with the electrical science when a problem-
working and laboratory demonstration session was scheduled to ac-
company the lectures. However certain departments had various pieces
of pertinent laboratory equipment which they worked into some of their
own laboratory courses, e.g. operation of heat exchangers, pumps, fluid
meters; physical testing of materials, demonstration of significance
of Reynold's number, etc. It is now recognized that it would be ad-
vantageous to develop some laboratory-demonstration work as a regular
part of at least some of the courses. Accordingly, when the quarter
plan goes into effect it will include laboratory credits for basic
fluid mechanics and basic thermodynamics, as well as a continuation
of the electrical science operation, common to all curricula.
The departments of aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering
respectively responsible for these new laboratory-demonstration sessions
in basic fluid mechanics and basic thermodynamics will develop them by
utilizing whatever facilities may be available anywhere in the college.
These two areas were selected because there is in existence a variety
of appropriate equipment located in the aerospace, chemical, civil, and
mechanical laboratories. For the present no effort will be made to move
this equipment, rather the students simply will work wherever the ap-
paratus.for the day's experiment or demonstration happens to be located.
Later, perhaps, a unified laboratory may be created by moving some ex-
isting equipment and adding some new equipment. Later, too, after ex-
perience has been gained, additional laboratory-demonstrations may be
started in a similar way for the other basic engineering science courses.
The basic course in the electrical area was originally called Basic
Electrical Science and Engineering and consisted of three major parts;
electrical circuit analysis, electrical machinery, and electronics. As
mentioned above, it was not required in the electrical engineering cur-
riculum because it was felt that this curriculum would be handicapped
by having to begin in this "survey" manner when it would ultimately
include much fuller treatment of all these subjects. However, the
strength of the drive for uniformity in all of the basic engineering
science courses is such that in the new "quarter" curriculum, the elec-
trical students as well as all others will take the same first course:
basic circuit analysis, with accompanying problem-demonstration labora-
tory. There will also be a second required course (without laboratory)
which may be either basic electrical and magnetic fields or electronics
at the choice of the student, except that electrical students must take
both subjects eventually.
The course in Basic Heat Transfer originally attempted to cover
conduction, radiation, and convection each rather fully. However, three
departments (aerospace, chemical, and mechanical) scheduled second-level
courses in heat transfer dealing mainly with applications of convection.
They found it difficult to specify a common basis in the basic course
beyond a qualitative treatment of the most fundamental concepts of con-
vection. Accordingly, this portion of the basic course was reduced by
the committee in favor of more extensive treatment of conduction and radi-
ation, leaving the extended treatment of convection to the second-level
courses. Not all faculty members would agree as to the wisdom of this
compromise but it is an illustration of the practical workings of the
So far no effort has been made to develop a common course extending
the concepts of rate processes to include mass transfer. Momentum trans-
fer (in Basic Fluid Mechanics) and heat transfer remain in separate
courses and mass transfer is treated in special departmental courses
only by those departments which see fit to do so. It is hoped, at least
by the author, that in the future a unified treatment of the three rate
mechanisms may be developed into a basic Engineering Science course also.
EFFECTS OF THE PLAN
The principal effect of this plan of common courses in the basic
engineering sciences has been to increase the degree of common courses
in the several departments. Under the quarter calendar 62.9% of all
course credits in each curriculum will be common courses. This is made
up as follows:
Basic physical sciences (mathematics, physics,
Basic Engineering sciences 16.9%
Orientation and co-ordination 1.8%
The remaining 37.1% varies according to the field of engineering speci-
alization and of course includes analysis, synthesis, and design work
as well as specialized second-level courses in engineering sciences and
other departmental subjects.
A second effect has been to reduce the amount of time devoted to
classical physics in order to make way for a course in atomic and nuclear
physics in every degree curriculum. Much of what is now called engineering
science was at one time considered to be a part of physics. But now, with
Co-ordination refers to those aspects of the co-operative work which are
treated in a special class during the school periods.
bepaaidt courses in which solid mechanics, fluid mechanics, thermodynamics,
heat transfer, and electrical science are treated it is unnecessary to
devote much time to these subjects in the general physics course. .Ac-
cordingly, the general physics course has been shortened and an upper-
level physics course covering atomic and nuclear structure and other
topics in modern physics has been added. Incidentally, the presence of
this course and an elective in the senior year on Introduction to NOclear
Engineering, makes it possible for students from any department who are
interested in graduate work in the nuclear field to acquire some special
foundation for it.
RELATIONSHIP WITH CHEMICAL ENGINEERING COURSES
The strictly chemical engineering courses of the curriculum have,
of course, been planned to fit in with the program of basic engineering
science courses as carefully as possible. Several departmental se-
quences have been established in conjunction with the engineering sci-
The first sequence begins with a separate course devoted to material
balances (and some orientation to the work of the chemical engineer), im-
mediately following General Chemistry. After this the student takes the
Basic Thermodynamics course. Following the Basic Thermodynamics course
but concurrent with the chemical thermodynamics course (taught as Physi-
cal Chemistry), a separate course in energy balances is given. Building
upon this foundation then is a course, tentatively called Equilibrium
processes, which really is the treatment of ideal stagewise processes
of all kinds, using thermodynamic principles.
The basic mechanics work of the first year, together with the basic
thermodynamics, forms the beginning of another sequence which goes on
through Basic Fluid Mechanics and Basic Heat Transfer concurrently with
Differential Equations. These are followed by two courses in rate pro-
cesses. The first deals with a unified treatment of mass, energy, and
momentum transfer, and the second with chemical reaction kinetics, cataly-
sis, and reactor design.
Another parallel sequence is that of the .chemistry courses themselves.
Beginning with General Chemistry, this goes through Analytical Chemistry
(with strong emphasis on instrumental methods), Nature and Properties of
Materials, Metallurgy, Organic Chemistry, and Advanced Physical Chemistry
(dealing with radiochemistry, photochemistry, surface chemistry, and electro-
These three sequences are brought together in the senior year course
called Process Design, with a parallel course in Process Dynamics and
One sequence presents the thermodynamic approach, one sequence the
kinetic or transient phenomena approach, and the third sequence the
chemistry approach to the general problems involved in Process Design and
Synthesis. Some of the material taught in the chemical engineering courses
may, of course, be considered as advanced or second-level work in the En-
gineering Sciences and as such is based upon the basic courses of the
All of the basic engineering science courses are being offered from
as truly a scientific point of view as possible. Thus, the foundation is
being laid for the more scientific approach to engineering, advocated not
only by the ASEE report, but also generally recognized by all forward-
looking engineering educators. In this way the plan is helping to provide
a better foundation for graduate work in any field and a significantly
larger portion of the senior class is going on to graduate work than in
the past. To be sure, this is not due entirely to the plan described here,
but the plan is certainly making a definite contribution toward this re-
In surveying engineering curricula in general, one might say that there
are two extremes with regard to the degree of common core courses. One ex-
treme position is represented by those schools in which the several pro-
fessional departments are completely autonomous and offer individual
curricula in which there is little effort or interest in any courses
taken in common except possibly the basic mathematics, physics, and
chemistry. The other extreme position is represented by the few schools
in which all undergraduate students take the same basic engineering cur-
riculum, with perhaps only a few electives in the senior year leading into
the work of the traditional branches of engineering. Various degrees of
sharing of common core subjects are to be found in other schools compri-
sing a whole spectrum lying between these extremes.
The Cincinnati plan may be thought of as somewhere near the middle of
this spectrum. The departments retain their autonomy to a considerable
extent, but they are cross-linked by their sharing in the plan of common
core basic engineering science courses. The way in which the plan has
been implemented has led to a high degree of cooperation between the
departments and to a significant pooling of their resources in the areas
of common interest, without disruption of the well-established administra-
tive arrangement. It might be said that by this plan, instead of collap-
sing the fences between departments completely, we are endeavoring to
build suitable gates through which the departments can cooperate appro-
priately in the area of Engineering Sciences and at the same time maintain
the values of the degree-granting departmental organizations.
That the plan is judged by the faculty to be successful after several
years of operation is indicated by the fact that in revising the curricu-
la for the new calendar, all efforts are being directed toward improvement
and extension of the plan and there are no voices heard suggesting that it
should be discontinued. We believe that this plan of an interdepartmental
approach to the basic engineering sciences marks a significant step in
keeping engineering education abreast of the needs of today.
DESIGNING CORE CURRICULA BASED ON PRINCIPLES OF LEARNING*
Dean E. Griffith
Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering
University of Houston
Abstract: Recent research into learning principles has made possible
the logical engineering design of core curricula in college engineering
programs. There is evidence to indicate that it is possible to create
sufficient time in the current engineering curricula to offer the
humanities recommended by the curricula studies of the American Society
of Engineering Education. The "Laboratory" should not be considered as
a separate unique course.
I am not an authority on Educational Psychology, nor am I of the
'progressive education school'.
This paper on 'The Design of Core Curricula Based on Principles
of Learning' has been written due to the pressure of three factors:
1) my personal interest as an engineering educator in the design
of the most efficient and effective curricula possible for the under-
graduate (and graduate) chemical engineer,
2) the challenges put forth to chemical engineering educators by
the Committee on 'Dynamic Objectives for Chemical Engineering' of the
3) certain very useful information on learning principles and
curriculum design which I learned while attending the Second Summer In-
stitute on Effective Teaching for Young Engineering Teachers, sponsored
by the American Society of Engineering Education and held at Pennsylvania
State University in 1961,
*Presented at the A.I.Ch.E. national meeting in Denver, Colorado,
August 1962. Publication release was obtained by the author.
I should like to warn the audience that, if you listen to my
reasoning, follow my logic, and agree with my conclusions, you will ulti-
mately deprive yourself of that age-old emotional experience among engineering
educators, and not a few practicing chemical engineers, i.e., the irra-
tional design of curricula.
B. Research in Educational Psychology
C. Principles of Learning
A. Applications of the Principles of Learning
B. Success of the Common Core
C. Educational Research in Chemical Engineering
This paper on the effect of common core courses on Chemical Engineering
Curricula is divided into two parts. The first part of this. paper is
narrative and deals with some fundamental principles of learning as
determined by research workers in educational psychology and what can be
applied to designing curricula in engineering. The second part of this
paper is speculative in nature, directed as it is to the question of
how principles of learning could be applied to the design of core curric-
ula or to the design of chemical engineering curricula in general.
This paper is directed'toward the following dynamic goals for chemical
engineering education and educators:
1) provision of a broad and sound undergraduate program, and
2) maintenance of an exciting teaching environment.
The following steps could fulfill these goals:
a) adjustment of the curriculum to reflect advances in science and
engineering and to encourage diversity and experimentation,
b) continuing incorporation in the chemical engineering curriculum
of advances and new techniques in chemistry, and
c) acceptance that the educator's first duty is to teach young
It seems strange to me that all of the activities of the chemical
engineer, whether he is in research, development, design, construction,
production, marketing, or management, require that he use the logical
systematic approach to problems which he developed in his college
training. But when the time comes to devote his efforts to one of the
most important contributions to chemical engineering, i.e., the design of
chemical engineering.curricula, the educator usually bases his design on
political needs and demands within his own school environment.
This paper considers a logical systematic approach to the design of
engineering curricula in general, and core curricula in particular, based
on some of the fundamental principles of learning.
B. Research in Educational Psychology.
Education is the system man has devised for transmitting and per-
petuating accumulated knowledge in succesive generations in young people.
Education has a two-fold purpose: 1) the transmission of past accumulated
knowledge, and 2) the establishment of capabilities in the young for
inventing new knowledge.
Research in educational psychology is engaged in determining the
fundamental principles upon which the efficient and effective transmission
and perpetuation of knowledge can be based. Research in educational
psychology, as in our own field of chemical engineering, has felt the boom
of the knowledge explosion. We have all read or heard about teaching
machines, educational TV, the exhaustive use of audio-visual facilities
in educational experiments. Research in educational psychology has
also turned up the following facts which are pertinent to our subject,
the design of curricula.
The modification of behavior of man which we call learning is the basic
characteristic upon which our educational systems are founded, and makes
use of the facts that 1) man's nervous system can be functionally (2)
modified, and 2) this modification of man's nervous system can be retained.
To the former, a modification of man's nervous system, we attribute man's
ability to acquire knowledge, and to the latter we attribute man's ability
to retain knowledge.
The educational system involves three major components: 1) the human
learner or student, 2) the teacher, and 3) the content materials of the
course or curriculum. The goal of the educational system is for the
student to understand, not merely recall, the content of the curriculum, (3)
that is, for the student to be able to put knowledge to use in new situations.
The central part of any educational scheme must be the student, the
human leaner, whose nervous system we are trying to modify.
We expect students to acquire and retain the knowledge we transmit to
them, so that their response to the stimulus of a chemical engineering
problem situation will be different from that before the chemical engineering
knowledge was transmitted to the student.
One of the truisms in educational psychology is that 'students learn
from what THEY do, from all of what THEY do, and from only what THEY do.'
Education is a do-it-yourself function. All education is self-
education.(3) Or to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, "It has not been observed
that librarians are wiser than other men." Mere exposure does not
The job of the teacher or curriculum planner is to establish the
conditions for effective learning to take place. This job involves:
l)(and this is by far the most important), the definition of the
objectives of the curriculum,
2) the design of the most efficient course or path (that is, the
curriculum) by which the student can achieve the objective of the
curriculum, including specific standards of performance (taking
into consideration the initial location of the student), and
3) the continuous motivation of the students by relating course
and curriculum objectives to the students' own personal goals,
The selection of and definition of curriculum objectives should
precede the actual design of the curriculum but should take into account
knowledge of what it is possible to accomplish by the learning process,
that is, the principles of learning. We shall defer the discussion of
the principles of learning for a few minutes to discuss the accumulation
and selection of curriculum objectives from another point of view.
We might pause here a moment to reflect on the goals of chemical
Are we in chemical engineering education trying to turn outs
1) technicians to run production units and pilot plants,
2) technical engineers to trouble-shoot production units and pilot plants,
3) engineers to make routine design or production evaluation calculations,
4) chemical marketing (technical sales) personnel,
5) chemical engineers for research and development groups,
6) technical managers for chemical plant administration,
7) chemical engineers to act as professional consultant or specialists,
8) engineering teachers to perpetuate the profession, etc.
The Institute's Committee on Dynamic Objectives has given educators a
great assist by publishing their report outlining some needs and objectives
of chemical engineering. It is hoped that by this means and by symposia such
as the current session, the Summer Institute of last week at Boulder,
and the session to be held in New Orleans next March at which industry
will again have a chance to criticize the Chemical Engineering Curricula,
the real objectives for chemical engineering education shall become
known and CLEARLY DEFIED.
The objectives of curricula will vary from school to school because
they are based on the value judgments of the curriculum planners. But the
initial study of curriculum objectives should take into account the
following sources of informations
1) information about types of students,
(I might add the needs of foreign students are quite different from
the needs of students educated in the United States.)
2) investigations of contemporary life,
(Students in chemical engineering should be prepared to face the
realities of a maturing chemical industry where market development
is taking on increasing importance to the commercial chemical
company relative to production and research and development.)
(I should like to say more about this during the panel discussion.)
and 3) reports of subject specialists
(This past week at a Summer Institute in Boulder, subject specialists
gave deliberations on various phases of chemical engineering knowledge.
Subject specialists should be questioned as to what contributions
they think their subject should be able to make to the education of
young chemical engineers.)
From this total list, which will include far more items than can be
conveniently considered by any one school, only the most important goals
should be selected because only a few objectives can actually be attained.
The greater the number of objectives attempted, the greater will be the
mutual interference of the learning processes.
As a criterion, the goals selected must meet the educational and
social philosophy of the school in which the curriculum serves. That is
to say that the administrative officers of the school must be asked to
closely define the objectives, both educational and social, of the school,
before any curriculum objectives are set forth.
A second screening is done by comparing the proposed list of objectives
with what is known about the principles of learning, or in other words, the
psychology of learning.
It is necessary to take this action to eliminate those objectives which
studies of learning indicate are not likely to be attained through school
learning experiences or are more efficiently reached at a different level
of age or maturity.
C. Principles of Learning.
I wish only to cover a few principles of learning important in the
designing of common core curricula.
In chemical engineering education, as in all education, there are
differences in student learning effectiveness as well as the more common
differences in learning abilities. That is, there is a very definite
difference between the ability of a student to be able to recall knowledge
from memory and, on the other hand, to be able to use (or apply, as we
say in engineering) the same knowledge. We might say that the former is
a necessary condition, while the latter is a sufficient condition, for
an engineer to graduate. The measurement of useable knowledge is
usually accomplished by observation of transfer of learning to new and
different situations. This one fundamental principle of educational
psychology we find permeating many chemical engineering courses in the
form of emphasis on analogies.
If all learning were 100 per cent effective, we would really have
little need for this symposium on the core curriculum, because we would
merely have to line up sufficient time to cover the topics we desire
the student to learn and start the student out. But certain internal
and external conditions aid or interfere with learning and, even more
important, the effective conditions of learning are different for
different kinds of human performance.
The six major classifications of human performance involving learning
1. discrimination, (go no go type of judgment)
2. identification, (more than two responses to different objects)
3. verbal sequences, (memorized sequential learning)
4. motor sequences, (motor movements to various stimuli)
5. class concepts, (ordering of learned items), and finally,
6. concept sequences, such as the laws of thermodynamics and their
corollaries, laws of transport phenomena, material and energy
concepts, concept of balances.
The most important classification of learning performance in courses
of academic study is the last, which constitutes the rules and principles
which make up the structure of the academic subject matter.
The principles of learning which are important to the attainment of
the last classification are as follows:
1) adequate motivation of the student,
2) adequate opportunity for the student to practice the new
habit to be learned.
3) adequate, rapid reinforcement for correct performance by
the student of the new habit and only the new habit,
and 4) freedom from distracting influences which may be unconsciously
learned with the habit as well as may hinder the learning of
the habit itself.
This last week Brymer ililliams in discussing computers in curricula
material mentioned the fact that teachers giving students poorly planned
or unworkable computer problems develop poor student computer relations.
This development does indeed hinder further learning by the student of
In any curriculum a student needs to be periodically motivated
toward the desired objective of the curriculum by comparison of the
personal objectives) of the student with the objectives of the curriculum.
This principle of learning should and can be built into the curriculum
from the outset. (It should appear in the course outline or subject
matter outline as a very clear statement showing that both the teacher
and the student understand the relation of these two groups of goals).
The student should have adequate opportunity not just for repetitious
practice of the new habit to be learned but should be directed to a
continuous, sequential integration of his learning experience.
In other words, the organization of the students' practice of learn-
ing experience in a curriculum should be to produce the maximum cumulative
effect, what we in chemical engineering would call optimization. The
major elements important to achieving the objectives of the course should
be iterated and reiterated. We are all familiar with the idea of giving
a talk: "Tell your audience what you are going to do, do it, and then tell
them what you have done." But the sequence should lead to deeper and
broader levels of coverage each time the objectives are reiterated. The
new habit, or curriculum subject matter, should be integrated to show
the relation of various curriculum subjects to one another and to outside
Probably the most important principles of learning regarding the
practice of a newly learned habit have to do with the transfer of learning,
that is, the effect of previous learning on a new activity. The basic
principle is that transfer of learning between two tasks occurs to the
extent that they are similar. In short, the way to insure similarity as
a basis for transfer of learning is (1) to use the same kind of perfor-
mance in the learning situation as in the task for which learning is
desired; and (2) to arrange for likeness in the stimulus contexts of
the two situations.
(My personal opinion is that the success of the MIT Chemical Engineering
Practice School can be directly attributed to these two principles.)
You teach a student how to program a computer by having the student
program a computer. You teach a chemical engineer how to make distilla-
tion calculations by having the engineer do just that. If a student
spends his time in the laboratory repairing equipment, or in the library
looking for a book, or writing pretty but uninformative reports, he learns
how to do just that.
It is therefore necessary in designing curricula that we select, with
positive intent, the learning experiences that are likely to attain the
objectives we desire. We must remember that the learning experiences are
provided not only by the school in the form of the materials used and the
methods of instruction but also by all of the learning activities of the
student on- and off-campus. Bad habits developed at home or in campus
residential housing are still bad habits learned.
When any curriculum, whether it be the so-called 'core' curriculum or
any other portion, is rationally built, these learning experiences are
provided as the means of attaining the objectives. Learning experiences
should be selected in terms of their probable usefulness in reaching
goals desired. These learning experiences should be guided by studies
of learning which have been conducted both within psychological research
laboratories and within schools.
Some questions of the kind we should answer i:oncerning the learning
experiences planned for Chemical Engineering curricula are: What kinds
of experiences are likely to develop increased ability to invent new
mass transfer contacting devices? What kinds of experiences are likely
to develop increased ability to trouble-shoot chemical production equip-
ment? What kinds of experiences are likely to develop increased ability
in teachers to motivate students? These experiences should be planned to
appeal to the student, to motivate the student, to direct the student
toward his goal or his modified goal (the objective of the curriculum).
Two final comments about effective conditions for learning. The
student must be encouraged to set high standards of performance for him-
self and also he must be given some means for judging his own performance.
He must be able to tell how well he is doing so that he may continue
learning beyond the time when a teacher is available.
Students must be taught the habit of 'stretching their minds', of
developing a 'thirst for knowledge' which must continue for the rest of
I would even go further than this. If our Chemical Engineering
curricula are to turn out professional engineers, the students must learn
to set these high standards for themselves and to learn on their own.
These objectives of higher education are the two and only two which I would
DEMAND of all Chemical Engineering curricula and should be part of the
ECPD requirements for accreditation. Research on the planning of exper-
iences to achieve these objectives needs to and should be done at the
earliest possible time.
A. Applications of the Principles of Learning.
I know of no engineering curricula where the principles of learning
have been applied to the fullest extent in the original design of the
curricula. Although there have been a fair number of new curricula
developed in the years since World War II, the majority of these curricula
are copies of curricula in which the faculty themselves participated or
combination thereof. New curricula offer the best opportunity for starting
with explicit definition of objectives and terminating with evaluation
of curricula design.
Probably the most elaborate application of the redesign of curricula
based on the principles of learning has been the Information Ordering
System of the University of California in Los Angeles. (4, 5, 6). The
objective of this study was to uncover the essential features of the exist-
ing Unified Engineering Program (curriculum), and to display the re-
sulting information in such a form that decisions could be made by the
faculty concerning future curriculum changes or alterations. The curri-
culum at UCLA is believed to be the oldest unified engineering program in
This study involved the gathering of information from each course
in the program and categorizing the data on the learning experiences
then currently in use. The information presented to the students in each
of the courses was organized into the following general classifications:
3. Concepts, percepts, and definitions
4. Methods of analysis
6. Factual data
and 7. Applications
The approach was that of analysis rather than that of design. By
the way, you might be interested in how many items were agreed on by
the UCLA faculty. I will give this number at the end of my talk.
Out of this study has come, among other accomplishments, the pre-
paration of criteria for curriculum design. The Unified Engineering
Program at UCLA rests on the postulate that the several branches of
engineering have a common base in the sciences, the humanities, and
professional practices, in methods of description, in logic, and modes
of analysis and synthesis, and in a generalized theory of design. This
leads to the 'common core' approach.
There are at least two distinguishable manners by which the common
core curriculum may be designed. One approach is by use of the 'engineer-
ing sciences' where one or more courses are devoted to each science. This
approach has a disadvantage of being somewhat inefficient, since each
course develops its own logic and concepts and the advantages of course
similarities are not exploited fully.
The second approach involves the design of core curricula to teach
(and build upon) the fundamental ideas which have the greatest generality.
Advantage is taken of the similarities of material coverage between
courses and the college curriculum is viewed as a system to emphasize the
most general and most useful concepts involved in the course material.
This approach results in the flow of knowledge building blocks across
One of the views (5) which came out of the intensive study of
course material covered at UCLA is that the important portion of subject
matter covered in the humanities is the set of values which are given to
us by the culture in which we live. The art portion of engineering is
dominated by value judgments. The real need in humanities is a study to
develop a better appreciation in students of values and, in particular,
to compare the relative value systems of the peoples of the earth.
If one is willing to adopt the above point of view, a careful study
of the humanities courses will reveal that departments teaching humanities
are usually more interested in teaching humanities for the sake of
humanities than for the utility of the material in developing a sense of
values in students. Much of the material in humanities courses could
be deleted. Most humanities courses should be modified to emphasize
The engineering laboratory courses have been a constant source of
problems to the educator. Since World War II we have developed an
appreciation of the importance of the engineering technician to technology
as a whole. But we have not been able to establish the relative import-
ance of the laboratory in the education of professional chemical engineers.
In most companies with unions the chemical engineer cannot do any
technicians' work on production or pilot plant equipment. Therefore, we
should not train engineers for this type of work.
The formal education of chemical engineers at colleges is one of the
few places where fundamentals may be (and I might add, must be) explored
to the fullest extent. Although many companies have culsultant-lecture
series whereby their employees are brought up to date on theoretical
developments in an area, very few companies, if any, encourage the
development of the simple fundamental experiment for demonstration before
The 'laboratory' activities at a college must be used only if they
will attain an educational objective more efficiently than by other means.
If the laboratory is used to demonstrate theory by application of the
learning principles of practice in sequential doses and in similar
circumstances to develop transfer of learning, then the laboratory
should be considered as an integral part of a course and not as a
separate course. The laboratory experiments should no longer be
intended to re-emphasize the lecture-material but should be designed
to.build on the lecture material, thereby developing new concepts.
I personally look upon the laboratory as nature's (and man's modi-
fication of nature) way of reinforcing the truths which we teach the
student in the classroom. One of the principles of learning states that the
shorter the time between learning and reinforcement, the more effective
The 'laboratory' should definitely not be considered as the 'other
.course.that has to be taught', the responsibility for which is delegated
to the youngest staff member on the faculty. 'Students learn from all
of what they do', and therefore they learn either good habits or bad
habits in the 'laboratory' depending on how it is taught.
At the University of Houston, we have thrown away the cookbook for
about five years and have been building an integrated unit operations
laboratory course which we call Chemical Engineering Practicum. We
endeavor to have the students actually practice chemical engineering at
the University and have attempted to direct the laboratory course toward
the ultimate use of the data collected as a basis for design.
I personally hope that we will soon integrate the Chemical Engineering
Practicum course with our Design course.
B. The Success of the Common Core.
The 'sine qua non' of the principles of learning applied to the design
of curricula has purposely been left for discussion until now. This 'sine
qua non' factor is the evaluation of curricula objective achievement.
It is necessary to periodically appraise the curricula to determine
to what extent objectives are being realized, where progress is being made,
and where progress is not being made, in summary, to evaluate the effective-
ness of the curriculum.
Unless clearly defined objectives have been set at the outset for the
curriculum, it will be impossible to design a test to evaluate curriculum
effectiveness with regard to obtaining the objectives.
There are few, if any, schools of chemical engineering in the United
States where a final examination is given to undergraduates to evaluate the
cumulative effectiveness of the undergraduate curriculum. The chemical
engineering section of the Graduate Record Examinations is probably as
close as we come to a national standard.
One might argue that the A.ICh.E. Annual Student Chapter Contest
Problem is a good examination of the cumulative effectiveness of the
undergraduate curriculum. I am not exactly sure what the A.I.Ch.E. Annual
Student Chapter Contest Problem has been specifically designed to measure.
If the list of specific objectives of the curriculum contains such
items as to have the student
1) memorize certain facts
2) memorize certain definitions
3) acquire an ability to use certain concepts in
I analyzing the problems studied
4) be able to explain various phenomena and
5) develop an interest in subject matter, etc.,
the achievement of these objectives can be measured by suitably designed
The kind of questions the chemical engineering profession as a whole
needs to ask itself, and on which the Institute's Committee on Dynamic
Objectives made a start, are as follows:
What things do the students really need to understand?
What kinds of abilities and/or skills should students develop in
thinking, analysis, problem solving, reading, writing, and mathematical
The relative success of the common core can only be evaluated in
terms of the objectives the common core is attempting to achieve. Since
the objectives are value judgments, we must ask core curricula designers
what their design objectives are, what learning experiences they planned
to accomplish these objectives, and what tests they used to evaluate the
effectiveness of their core curricula. I hope the following speakers will
throw some light on this subject.
C. Educational Research in Chemical Engineering.
I would be quite remiss if I went away from this meeting without
mentioning a topic of extreme importance to curriculum designers during
this knowledge explosion. And that is the topic of continuous research
in chemical engineering education.
The Institute itself encourages experimentation among the curricula
of the various chemical engineering schools.
My plea here is not for changes for the sake of changes but for
controlled experiments in chemical engineering education, recording of
the variables, and most important, accurate reporting of the results.
I am sure every college professor in chemical engineering has
incorporated certain changes in his courses, and most faculties are
continually doing some experimentation with the curriculum. But I feel
that very few experiments with the curriculum are being made on the
same research level as those experiments in chemical engineering physical
The Chemical Engineering Education Projects Committee of the Insti-
tute should consider sponsorship of a few well planned experiments in
chemical engineering curriculum development; if not the Chemical
Engineering Education Projects Committee, then possibly the Undergraduate
Curricula Subcommittee of the Chemical Engineering Education and
We now have two journals for permanently recording the results of
research in chemical engineering education.
The Chemical Engineering Division of the American Society for
Engineering Education now publishes an annual Journal of the Proceedings
of the Division. Dr. Lemlich's Journal of Chemical Engineering Education
is also available to us.
I should like to close with one final comment. Many items are
suggested each year for inclusion in the curriculum. If these items are
human activities, they can be defined in detail. If these human activities
can be defined or described, THEY CAN BE TAUGHT AND MEASURED.
(The number of items agreed upon by the UCLA Faculty in their
curriculum study was approximately 3000).
I thank you.
(1) A.I.Ch.E. Committee on Dynamic Objectives for Chemical Engineering,
"Dynamic Objectives for Chemical Engineering 1961", Chemical
Engineering Progress, Vol. 57, No. 10, pp. 69-100, October 1961.
(2) Gagne, Robert M., "Principles of Learning", Achieving Learning
Objectives, Proceedings of the Summer Institute on Effective
Teaching for Young Engineering Teachers, Pennsylvania State
(3) Tyler, Ralph W., "Conducting Classes to Optimize Learning", Achieving
Learning Objectives, Proceedings of the Summer Institute on
Effective Teaching for Young Engineering Teachers, Pennsylvania
State University, 1961.
(4) Hawkins, George A., "Course and Curriculum Planning", Achieving
Learning Objectives, Proceedings of the Summer Institute on
Effective Teaching for Young Teachers, Pennsylvania State
(5) Tribus, M., "Curriculum Design", Summer Institute on Effective
Teaching for Young Engineering Teachers, Pennsylvania State
(6) Rosenstein, A.B., and Tribus, M., "Educational Development Committee -
First Annual Report, 1960-1961", Report 61-47, Department of
Engineering, University of California, Los Angeles.