Asee peer logo

Challenge-based Instruction for a Civil Engineering Dynamics Course

Download Paper |


2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Innovative Pedagogy in Civil Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.281.1 - 23.281.12



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Matthew D. Lovell P.E. Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology


Sean P Brophy Purdue University, West Lafayette

visit author page

Dr. Sean Brophy is the co-leader of the Educational, Outreach and Training team for the George E. Brown Network for Earthquake Engineering Simulation (NEES). He is also an associate professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. His research in engineering education and learning sciences explores how undergraduate engineering students think and reason with models. This is a one of the key elements of their success as they engage in challenge-based instruction.

visit author page

author page

Sensen Li Purdue University, West Lafayette

Download Paper |


Challenge-based Instruction for a Civil Engineering Dynamics CourseEngineering problems involving motion require skills to graphically and mathematically modelthe dynamics of a system. Learners in a second year dynamics course typically bring with themexperience from calculus-based physics of particles and rigid bodies in motion. The traditionaldynamics course provides students with multiple opportunities to build on this knowledge bysolving “fundamental problems” defined in the textbook. However, like many textbooks theseare well-defined problems. Our concern is these experiences with “well-defined” textbookproblems limit the development of engineering skills associated with transforming a complexand real world problem into a graphical model and identifying the multiple sub-problemsassociated with defining a solution. To address this shortcoming, a second year dynamics coursefocused toward civil engineering students was enhanced using a challenge-based approach tolearning and instruction. The challenge-based approach is rooted in principles from the howpeople learn framework and the STAR.Legacy learning cycle which have been successfullyimplemented in undergraduate bioengineering, electrical engineering and civil engineeringcourses.During the Fall 2012 semester, “challenge problems” were introduced in a civil engineeringdynamics class to start each new major topic for the course. Students attempted to generate ideasabout how to solve the problem and developed questions about what they needed to know tosolve the challenge. Students acquired the knowledge to solve the challenge problem insubsequent lectures presented in a studio format. Finally, the students aggregated their learningfor the course topic by submitting a potential solution to the challenge posed.These student products were analyzed by evaluating the students’ initial ideas they generatedabout the challenge and their final report on how they solved the problem. We anticipatestudents’ approach to these challenges will become more sophisticated and grounded in firstprinciples of dynamics with each new challenge. Additionally, their ability to demonstrate theirknowledge and skills will also be seen on their exam performance. We used the previous year’sresults from exam scores in a traditionally taught dynamics course as a control, and initial resultsshow substantial improvement.

Lovell, M. D., & Brophy, S. P., & Li, S. (2013, June), Challenge-based Instruction for a Civil Engineering Dynamics Course Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19295

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2013 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015