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Concepts in Roundabout Resources: A Comparison Between Academic and Practical Text Using Content Analysis

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Concepts and Conceptual Knowledge

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.391.1 - 26.391.20



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Paper Authors

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Lauren Suzanne Wallace


Floraliza Bornilla Bornasal Oregon State University

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Floraliza B. Bornasal is a doctoral candidate in the School of Civil and Construction Engineering at Oregon State University. Her research explores engineering practice and learning in workplace contexts. She received her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from Saint Martin’s University and her master’s degree in civil engineering - with a focus in transportation - at Oregon State University. Address: School of Civil and Construction Engineering, 211 Kearney Hall, 1491 SW Campus Way, Corvallis, OR 97331 Phone: 509-499-5187 Email:

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Shane A. Brown P.E. Oregon State University Orcid 16x16

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Shane Brown is an associate professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University. His research interests include conceptual change and situated cognition. He received the NSF CAREER award in 2010 and is working on a study to characterize practicing engineers’ understandings of core engineering concepts.

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Roundabout resources: An understanding of practical and academic resourcesThe ability to recognize, identify, choose, and utilize relevant resources in the workplace is anecessary skill for engineers as they complete tasks. However, the type of resource, as well as itspresentation of content, concept, and context, varies in determined necessity. In academics, thereis a popular idea that is authoritatively and cognitively inclined—a concept is a single thing thatis non-negotiable and has a specified approach. In the workplace, however, there are notsingular ideas—concepts are situated, distributed, and pragmatic, and are utilized according tothe project at hand. There is a certain malleability of concepts in the workplace that is not aspresent in academia. During their undergraduate education, engineering students are required toutilize a myriad of guidebooks, textbooks, and other academic resources. Professors claim thatsuch resources will allow for the most apt preparation with regards to the workplace and futureendeavors. This information necessitates the questions: 1) “how helpful are these resources inactuality?”, and 2) “are engineering concepts (which are widely acknowledged as a foundation ofunderstanding amongst faculty members) presented in different contexts in these resources?” Bystudying contexts that reflect the transition of students from their academic situations to ones inindustry, the answer to this question may be answered. Literature from a situated learningperspective suggests that students function at the edge of the Community of Practice. As such,the progression of a student from a “newcomer” through legitimate peripheral participation andsituated learning to an “old-timer” fully participating in the activities and practices of thecommunity requires the initiation and presentation of relevant contexts. Further, past literaturecite interviews of novice industry workers that claim much of the academic resources they hadworked diligently to learn and understand were not as prevalent as they expected the resources tobe within the workplace. With a focus on roundabout design, researchers completed a contentanalysis of academic resources (i.e. textbooks) and field-collected resources (i.e. state and federaldesign guidelines and standards). Using engineering concepts (i.e. “sight distance,”“superelevation,” etc.) as units of analysis, researchers compared these two forms of materialresources according to the prevalence of engineering concepts utilized, types of inscriptionsutilized in concert with the noted concepts, and how concepts are linked and reference to oneanother within the text across the two types of resources. Initial findings suggest that thelanguage used to call out concepts differ according to the type of resource. Further, the types ofinscriptions utilized by each resource also differ in prevalence. Lastly, engineering concepts linkdifferently between resource types. This exploratory research allows for identification ofconcepts that are relevant to engineers as they design a specific transportation facility. It alsoinitiates the identification of contexts relevant to the day-to-day work of practicing engineers.By comparing the ways concepts are presented in the resources that engineers actually utilize inthe field to the way concepts are presented to students in academia, the gap between academiaand practice may be better bridged.

Wallace, L. S., & Bornasal, F. B., & Brown, S. A. (2015, June), Concepts in Roundabout Resources: A Comparison Between Academic and Practical Text Using Content Analysis Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23730

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