In a student's engineering college experience there should be a gradual transition from problems of very restricted form and subject matter, as freshmen, to more opened ended and integrated problems in the senior year. In the freshman year the student might only be expected to know how to apply the equations in a particular chapter given the needed data. A senior however should be ultimately expected to solve problems using not only the current course material but material from previous courses that has not necessarily been highlighted in the current chapter of the text. In some situations the senior is expected to analyze the data for its accuracy and completeness. The solving of a distillation problem might demonstrate this change. A sophomore would have to use only material and energy balances, i.e. the subjects being covered in the course. The student would be given only correct data that is needed to solve the problem and no extraneous data given. A senior might be ask to look at the problem incorporating the concepts of mass transfer and fluid mechanics which had been studied in preciously courses but had not been emphasized in the current course. Extensive plant data might be given to the student much of which is not required for the problem solution and some of which maybe erroneous. For seniors this may initially be out of their comfort zone but as the student is exposed to more of the real world problem environment the student's confidence and success should increase. This emphasis on course integration will help students in their preparation for professional registration (FE exam) and for success in their work place.
In a professional engineering environment, an individual is in general not asked to solve a quantitative problem in fifty minutes testing their speed and accuracy. They could be assigned projects in which they would budget their time or work extra to determining a solution. They might be asked to a meeting to give an impromptu qualitative answer. In the classroom environment, I try to replicate both of these situations. First by giving student the extra time they may need to complete a test thus making it a question not of speed but of the students understanding of the concepts. Second I ask questions to class as a whole or to individuals for qualitative answers that show basic understanding of the subject. With this approach the student should be better prepared to be successful in their engineering career.