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Competition Based Learning in the Classroom

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Using Student Competitions to Enhance Learning

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.313.1 - 23.313.20



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Paper Authors


Chris Carroll University of Louisiana, Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Carroll is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. His primary area of expertise is in reinforced and prestressed concrete. He also has an interest in engineering education at both the college and K-12 levels. Dr. Carroll serves as a voting member on ACI Committee S802 - Teaching Methods and Educational Materials and is a consulting member to the ASCE Pre-College Outreach Committee. He is also actively involved with engineering outreach at the K-12 level.

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Competition Based Learning in the Classroom In the traditional civil engineering curriculum, undergraduate students take courses withboth lecture and laboratory formats. While the lecture courses provide the opportunity forstudents to absorb new information, the purpose of a laboratory is to expose students to thephysical problems associated with a course and reinforce course content. The traditional type oflaboratory has well-planned experiments, typically containing step-by-step guides leading thestudents through each experiment. Generally in groups of four or five, students in-turn conductthe experiment, regurgitate the results, and prepare a laboratory report, arguably fulfilling ABETstudent outcome (b) “an ability to design and conduct experiments, as well as analyze andinterpret data.” It is possible, however, that these “cookie cutter” laboratory experiments in factmay not be that effective. The two primary downfalls to the traditional laboratory format are thesize of laboratory groups and the amount of information the students are provided with duringthe experiment. Using such large groups can result in students divvying up the responsibilities orworse, some students having little to no contribution at all. Giving students too muchinformation can result in a lack of effort to investigate things on their own, providing a falsesense of security that they will always be provided with all the required information. In eithercase, the primary objective of the laboratory is not being met. Another option, contrary to thetraditional laboratory format, is to use Competition Based Learning in the course. Competition Based Learning is essentially project based learning, still involving teams ofstudents in an open-ended assignment resembling a scaled down version of a problem they mayencounter in their career; the added twist is accounting for the performance of the resultingspecimen during final project testing with respect to other groups in the course. The hope is togenerate motivation in the students to have the best overall project and eliminate the tendency ofjust doing enough to get by. This paper highlights the use of a project similar to the AmericanConcrete Institute Egg Protection Device Competition in lieu of a traditional laboratory format ina Reinforced Concrete Design course. The project includes design, analysis, and laboratorycomponents and eliminates the two primary downfalls of a traditional laboratory course by usingteams of two students and minimizing the amount of information given on the front end. Likemost design courses, ABET student outcomes (c) and (e) are addressed. On the contrary, unlikemost design courses, this format also encompasses ABET student outcomes (b) and (i).Following the completion of the project a survey was given to students from two courses,providing qualitative data on the effectiveness of the project. This data is also presented in thepaper.

Carroll, C. (2013, June), Competition Based Learning in the Classroom Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19327

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