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Case Studies In Geotechnical/Foundation Engineering: Engaging Students And Bringing The Practice Into The Classroom

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Civil Engineering in the Classroom

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.308.1 - 11.308.13



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Paper Authors


Waddah Akili Iowa State University

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Waddah Akili has been in the academic arena for over 37 years. He has held academic positions at Drexel University, Philadelphia, Penna (66-69), at King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia (69-87), and at the University of Qatar, Doha, Qatar (87-00). Professor Akili's major field is geotechnical engineering and materials. His research work & experience include: characterization of arid and semi arid soils, piled foundations, pavement design & materials, and concrete durability. His interests also include: contemporary issues of engineering education in general, and those of the Middle East and the Arab Gulf States in particular.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Case Studies in Geotechnical/Foundation Engineering: Engaging Students and Bringing the Practice into the Classroom


Lecturing or “teaching by telling” is the traditional and the most widely used form of instruction in most engineering institutions. The major drawback of the lecture approach is that it usually results in long periods of uninterrupted instructor-centered, expository discourse, relegating students to the role of passive spectators.(1)This method, however, continues to be the most dominant teaching method in engineering institutions and widely used in most classes.

To improve the relevancy of engineering education, we believe that teaching, or more fundamentally, student learning needs to be emphasized. Learning, as defined today, is more than the acquisition of knowledge. Bloom(2) has defined six increasing levels of learning and/or comprehension, beginning with fact-based knowledge, and followed by: comprehension (using factual information and explaining facts), application (applying facts to solve problems, analyzing concept structures), synthesis (creating something new by using different components), and evaluation (exercising judgments and comparing new facts with existing knowledge). It is said that traditional teaching engages only the first level of learning as students down load information from a traditional lecture and upload it back on an examination and or a report. Not only does traditional teaching fail to take students through all six levels of learning, it also fails to engage students in the teaching-learning process. (3, 4, 5).

In civil engineering education today, there is a growing need to replace traditional approaches of teaching by utilizing pedagogies of engagement (5), and simultaneously bringing practical problems and issues that practitioners usually face, into the classroom.(6) Pedagogical studies have demonstrated that the case study/ case history approach to engineering education provides a greater understanding of the multifaceted nature of civil engineering.(7,8) They can be used to simulate a variety of learning protocols such as: design and analysis experiences, interdisciplinary issues and concerns, costs, hazards, owner preferences, and compliance with standards and guidelines. Cases, by and large, describe situations, projects, problems, decisions, etc., and are primarily derived from actual experience, and do reflect thoughts, outlook, and concerns of: managers, professionals, regulatory agencies, communities, and owners. Cases are also widely used in other disciplines such as: education, medicine, and law.

This paper describes the steps taken in planning, developing, and executing a case study/ case history course in geotechnical/ foundation engineering at an international university. The paper sheds light on: how a “workable” format for the course was arrived at, the organization of the course, and the results of evaluating the effectiveness of this approach versus traditional lecturing. Problems and challenges that could arise when offering the course for the first time are also addressed. Embedded in this experience and its related protocols are the emphases on engineering design and the practice, teamwork and leadership development, organizational management, and oral and written communication skills. The paper concludes by confirming that

Akili, W. (2006, June), Case Studies In Geotechnical/Foundation Engineering: Engaging Students And Bringing The Practice Into The Classroom Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--444

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