DESIGN AND ASSESSMENT OF AN ASSOCIATE DEGREE-LEVEL PLANT OPERATIONS TECHNICAL EDUCATION PROGRAM
Selwitz, Jason Lawrence
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Research was undertaken to develop and evaluate an associate degree-level technical education program in Plant Operations oriented towards training students in applied science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills and knowledge relevant to a spectrum of processing industries. This work focuses on four aspects of the curriculum and course development and evaluation research. First, the context of, and impetus for, what was formerly called vocational education, now referred to as technical or workforce education, is provided. Second, the research that was undertaken to design and evaluate an associate degree-level STEM workforce education program is described. Third, the adaptation of a student self-assessment of learning gains instrument is reviewed, and an analysis of the resulting data using an adapted logic model is provided, to evaluate the extent to which instructional approaches, in two process control/improvement-focused courses, were effective in meeting course-level intended learning outcomes. Finally, eight integrative multiscale exercises were designed from two example process systems, wastewater treatment and fast pyrolysis. The integrative exercises are intended for use as tools to accelerate the formation of an operator-technician’s multiscale vision of systems, unit operations, underlying processes, and fundamental reactions relevant to multiple industries. Community and technical colleges serve a vital function in STEM education by training workers for medium- and high-skilled technical careers and providing employers the labor necessary to operate and maintain thriving business ventures. Through development of the curricular, course, and assessment-related instruments and tools, this research helps ensure associate degree-level technical education programs can engage in a continual process of program evaluation and improvement.