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Critical Thinking in the Curriculum: Making Better Decisions

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Topics Related to Civil Engineering Curriculum

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.341.1 - 24.341.14



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Paper Authors


Stephen P. Mattingly University of Texas, Arlington Orcid 16x16

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STEPHEN MATTINGLY is an Associate Professor in Civil Engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington. Previously, he worked at the Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Irvine and University of Alaska, Fairbanks. He has recently completed and is currently working on research projects that address a variety of topics including transportation public health performance measures, decision and risk analysis, airport operations, managed lane traveler behavior, high-speed rail compatibility with existing freeway right-of-way, improving critical thinking in the civil engineering curriculum, integrating sustainability into the engineering curriculum and creating a sustainability minor, transportation emissions and sustainability, and freeway and frontage road operational modeling and performance measures.
He has published several articles in the Transportation Research Record, other journals and conferences on these and other related topics. He is currently serving on the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Committee on Traffic Flow and Characteristics and is a past member of the TRB Committee on Transportation Network Modeling. Stephen is also a member of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

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Yvette Pearson Weatherton University of Texas, Arlington Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Yvette Pearson Weatherton received her Ph.D. in Engineering and Applied Science (Environmental Engineering) from the University of New Orleans in 2000. She is Associate Chair of the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington, a Program Evaluator for the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, and a registered Professional Engineer in Louisiana.

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Andrew P. Kruzic P.E. University of Texas, Arlington

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Heather L. Frost


Ziaur Rahman The University of Texas at Arlington

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Ziaur Rahman received his Bachelor of Science (B. Sc.) degree in Civil Engineering from Bangladesh University of Engineering & Technology, Dhaka, in June 2007.

After completing his Bachelor degree, he started his graduate studies in Civil Engineering at The University of Texas at Arlington in August 2008. He completed his Masters of Engineering (M. Eng.) degree under the supervision of Dr. Siamak Ardekani. He continued his graduate studies as a Ph. D. student under the supervision of Dr. Stephen Mattingly in Fall 2010.

The author’s research interests include Incident Management, Operations and Safety, Traffic Flow, and Statistical Modeling. He presented at several TexITE meetings on Wrongway Movement and Incident Management. He is actively involved with different student organizations and served as the president of Institute of Transportation Engineers(ITE), and Bangladesh Student Organization at UTA in 2012-2013.

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Alternative Analysis in the Curriculum: Making Better Decisions Stephen P. Mattingly, Andrew P. Kruzic, Yvette Pearson Weatherton, Ziaur Rahman and Heather Frost University of Texas at ArlingtonIn recent years, the funds allocated towards infrastructure maintenance and construction havesignificantly decreased. As these issues may exacerbate in the future, civil engineers must beable to assist public agencies and private organizations in the allocation decisions related to theuse of limited financial resources. Therefore, their ability to develop effective alternativeanalyses is a vital skill for their professional activity. In addition to technical issues, effectivedecision-making is critical for resolving ethical conflicts. Most importantly, critical thinkingskills enrich other aspects of the students’ learning process, as they face other challengingdecisions in their future.In an effort to develop a greater awareness and ability to conduct alternative analysis, theDepartment of Civil Engineering has revised its curriculum to include critical thinking as part ofthe undergraduate students’ learning experience. The revised curriculum starts in the freshmanyear by introducing students to the concept of higher order thinking and alternative analysis.During the sophomore year, the students are instructed to independently perform an alternativeanalysis on non-technical problems, such as a major purchase that they may face in life. Theseearly efforts are focused on improving student awareness and capability to enable higher ordercognitive skills, to be adapted to actual civil engineering problems during the junior and senioryears. Junior and senior level engineering students work on a variety of different alternativeanalysis problems focused on typical engineering topics for example, gas well site civilinfrastructure and roadway extension. In addition, the students explore their critical thinkingskills in addressing ethical quandaries.The courses’ effectiveness in improving student critical thinking skills is assessed by a pre-testand a post-test. Finally, the overall students’ progression during their undergraduate studies isevaluated by comparing the results of the critical thinking assessment test administered duringthe first semester of the freshman year and another test in the final semester of the senior year.

Mattingly, S. P., & Pearson Weatherton, Y., & Kruzic, A. P., & Frost, H. L., & Rahman, Z. (2014, June), Critical Thinking in the Curriculum: Making Better Decisions Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20232

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