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A Case Study Of Project Based Learning In Structural Engineering

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

ASEE Multimedia Session

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Page Numbers

7.15.1 - 7.15.18

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Julie Mills

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Session 2793

A Case Study of Project-based Learning in Structural Engineering

Julie Mills University of South Australia

Abstract Engineering education remains dominated by the “chalk and talk” technique, despite the large body of education research that demonstrates its ineffectiveness. Structural engineering education also remains dominated by this pedagogy, with a heavy emphasis on lecture-based delivery of the theories of structural analysis and the behaviour of common construction materials. The integration of these fields rarely occurs. Concern about the effectiveness of this approach has been raised by practitioners, professional bodies and educators. The use of project - based learning is proposed as one means of overcoming these concerns, as projects enable students to understand the synthesis of structural analysis, material behaviour, constructability and economic reality that occurs in the professional practice of structural engineering.

At many institutions design projects are left to the final year of the degree and assessment weighting often heavily favours examinations over project work. This study proposed that the use of design projects in structural engineering is an effective method of learning that models industrial practice, and that projects should consequently be incorporated throughout the degree program. A case study of the effectiveness of project-based learning in structural engineering was undertaken in the third year of an undergraduate civil engineering course in South Australia. This paper discusses the development of the study, including the theoretical framework and the measures of effectiveness used. Students’ and industry’s perceptions of the skills necessary for successful practice in structural engineering are examined as well as the students’ perceptions of the value of the course projects and other components as a means of attaining these skills. Finally, students’ success in acquiring these skills through the design projects and other components of the course is evaluated.

Introduction Structural Engineering is one of four main specialist areas of Civil Engineering (the others are geotechnical, water and transportation engineering). It may be defined as

The science and art of planning, design, construction, monitoring and inspection maintenance, rehabilitation and preservation, demolishing and dismantling of structures taking into consideration technical, economic, environmental, aesthetic and social aspects. The term “structures” includes buildings, bridges, in-ground structures, footings, frameworks and any other structures composed of any structural material. [1].

The fundamental core of structural engineering is design. To structural engineers, design is what they do when they develop the schemes for construction of a bridge or building, deciding how it

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Mills, J. (2002, June), A Case Study Of Project Based Learning In Structural Engineering Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.

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