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Teaching P&ID Reading Alongside Critical Thinking, Teamwork and Self-Directed Learning Using E-Learning

conference contribution
posted on 25.03.2022, 08:58 by Sin Moh Cheah
Many graduates from the Diploma in Chemical Engineering (DCHE) found employment in the chemical processing industries as process technicians. The required skill sets are developed progressively over DCHE’s 3-year program using a spiral curriculum (Bruner, 1960). Basic skills in this job role include reading Piping and Instrumentation Diagram (P&ID) of a chemical plant, using it for line-tracing to familiarize oneself with the plant, and operating the plant using standard operating procedures (SkillsFuture Singapore, 2017). The P&ID is a blueprint of a chemical plant, using symbols to represent all equipment, pipes and piping components, instruments and controls, etc; as built in the plant. Developing such competency is of paramount importance, as it is a transferable skill that technicians can rely on when he/she moved from one chemical plant to another. Students are taught P&ID reading in Semester 2 Year 1, in the module Laboratory & Process Skills 2, using e-Learning.

The approach to designing e-learning package was based on the CDIO Framework (, which DCHE had been using since 2006. A key feature of the CDIO Framework is the design of leaning activities – known as Integrated Learning Experiences – that promotes simultaneous learning of domain knowledge, acquisition of skills and development of desired values and attitudes; in a real-world context (Crawley, Malmqvist, Ostlund & Brodeur, 2006). The pedagogical framework is based on a set of core principles of learning (Sale, 2015), using an evidence-based approach (Hattie, 2009). In addition, information-communication technologies are used to promote active learning as they interact with the e-learning materials. A 4-hour e-learning package was developed to teach P&ID reading using table-top line-tracing. Students are required to prepare Lead Sheets for the P&ID. A Lead Sheet is like a picture dictionary: a collection of symbols used in the P&ID. Key skills integrated into the learning task are critical thinking, teamwork and self-directed learning (SDL). Teamwork had been taught to students in the previous semester, while critical thinking and SDL were covered in the beginning of Semester 2 via a workshop; and these were used in 3 other activities in Laboratory & Process Skills 2 prior to the e-learning. Students in groups of 4-5 members are required to work collaboratively, whereby each student is responsible one category of P&ID symbols. Learning assessment is based on group submission of combined lead sheets and individual reflection journal of each student’s SDL experience. The lead sheet is to be used later for line-tracing and sketching of P&IDs for actual pilot plants. Sketched P&IDs are assessed based on completeness, correctness of symbols, and overall neatness of presentation (categorization, organization). Teamwork assessment is done using online system that computed two factors: SPA (Self and Peer Assessment) and SAPA (Self-Assessment to Peer Assessment). A survey was conducted to obtain students feedback on their learning experience, in particular how it prepared them to work on real pilot plants in the later part of the module.

Results & Conclusion
87 students out of about 140 from 7 classes participated in the survey, i.e. about 62% response rate. In general, most students found the learning experience useful, although they still preferred face-to-face interactions. Close to 60% agreed that SDL is important in learning about P&IDs and their symbols, and almost 80% of students appreciated the importance of teamwork in putting together the Lead Sheets. Students are also expressed confidence in using the skills acquired (sightly above 80%) in later activities. The presentation concludes with actions for improving students’ e-learning experience, as students tend to over-estimate their capability for line-tracing and P&ID sketching; as evidenced by the work submitted.


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Applied Learning Conference 2022, 20-21 January 2022, Online

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