June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
23.253.1 - 23.253.21
Bringing Creativity into the Lab EnvironmentThe ASCE Body of Knowledge (BOK) establishes the need for civil engineering students to develop criticalthinking skills. One area in which students can develop the requisite level of critical thinking ability isthrough the laboratory component of their undergraduate education. In BOK Outcome #7 (experiments)it states that “inquiry-based learning emphasizing the method of discovery helps to develop the criticalthinking skills necessary in learning the experimental process.” In addition, critical thinking helps“develop engineering judgment, necessary in interpreting and analyzing results of experiments.”Laboratory experimentation is a critical component of a civil engineering student’s undergraduateeducation and there is a need for civil engineering programs to continue to place more emphasis oninquiry-based learning within the laboratory environment. The primary purpose of this paper is topresent one program’s efforts in establishing inquiry-based lab experiments and fostering studentcreativity within the laboratory environment.One of the key elements in inquiry-based lab experimentation is to allow students to formulate theirown lab experiments and exercise creative thought while developing their own ideas, applications,processes, and analysis techniques. A traditional lab setting often includes having the students followstep-by-step procedures as outlined in the lab manual. However, our intention is typically not to havethe students trained to become lab technicians. Rather we desire that lab time enhance and supplementthe student’s understanding of concepts being taught within the classroom, while understanding howand why experiments are conducted as prescribed and thinking “outside of the box” on possible ways toconduct field experiments. This paper provides a general overview of how student innovation wasperformed during lab sessions within multiple lab courses such as introduction to engineering,measurements, and soils. Some of the additional questions that will be answered by this paper include:What are the specific labs that students conduct? What are the primary objectives of these labs? Howdo these affect the student’s abilities in understanding foundational principles in the classroom? Whatare the innovative requirements? What other unexpected benefits have come from this type of labenvironment? How is the department assessing whether or not the students are meeting the desiredoutcome? What are the results of the assessment process? How is the assessment process continuing tostrengthen the desired result of these innovative types of lab sessions? The target audience for this paper includes instructors and programs that may struggle with knowinghow to bring creativity into, those that desire to establish inquiry-based learning within, and those whocan benefit from allowing more open-ended processes within the laboratory setting. This paperdemonstrates our perceived benefits from this type of laboratory approach and how allowing creativityhas helped the students to think more critically. Finally this paper summarizes student feedback aboutthese types of lab sessions and demonstrates how this type of environment has had a positive effect ontheir learning.
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