A chemical engineering card game to practice conceptual learning in competitive groups

Start date

April 2022

End date

July 2022


Separation processes is a core topic on the chemical engineering course, introduced in Year 2 in Separation Processes 1 (SP1), and continued in Year 3 in Separation Processes 2 (SP2). These modules contain key threshold concepts, and the topics covered build on previous modules requiring students to link their learning with prior knowledge.

Deep learning and knowledge retention is necessary to fully master these concepts. However, students often lack this deep understanding and struggle to link concepts, impacting their ability to understand and master challenging threshold concepts. Gamification of learning is an educational technique shown to positively influence deep learning, student behaviour, and learning outcomes. Further to this, introducing an aspect of competition can be beneficial for student engagement and motivation to learn.

While positive outcomes have been reported for chemical engineering topics such as process design and fluid mechanics, studies on gamification for separation processes is sparse. We hypothesise that introducing a gamification element to SP1 and SP2 will assist with deep learning, concept linking, and eventual mastery of threshold concepts. As such, this project seeks to develop a card game for use in SP1 and SP2 to practice core separation processes concepts.

Aims and objectives

This project aims to develop a card game for use in Separation Processes tutorials for chemical engineering students at Surrey. Key objectives include:

  1. Card game development
  2. Conversion to a flashcard app for individual study
  3. Trial and development of the game in tutorials.

Project plan

A research assistant from the undergraduate chemical engineering cohort, who has studied SP1 and SP2, will be hired for 30 hours to review the content of both modules and to create a series of game cards containing key concepts from them. They will also help with creative aspects of card and game design, and in converting the cards to an app flashcard deck. The card game will be trialled as part of a staff activity, amended as necessary, then printed.

The game will be used in tutorial sessions to emphasise the importance of correctly learning fundamental concepts, and for students to practice conceptual learning of these key topics. The proposed card game will prompt students to describe SP1/SP2 concepts by either avoiding restricted phrases (those commonly seen in formal definitions of the word), or by drawing a picture, as their teammates guess what is being described. The team with the most correct guesses at the end of a set time wins. Words that were skipped or guessed incorrectly imply gaps in knowledge/understanding, which the lecturer can review at the end of the session.

The employment of a research assistant from the undergraduate chemical engineering student body will allow for student consultation and input to the project as it develops. Following the staff trial, the developed game will then be tested in SP1 and SP2 at the start, middle and end of Semester 1 in the upcoming 2022/23 academic year. This repeat of the same activity aims to check in on students’ learning and to develop good practice/learning habits through ongoing revision of core concepts. Comparing the skipped or incorrect questions recorded from the progressive sessions allows the quantitative evaluation of core concept learning. Student feedback from these sessions will further inform the game development for future years.

Funding amount




Research themes

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