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Engineers Of The Round Table: Utilizing A Discussion Forum To Enhance Student Learning In Geotechnical Engineering

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Innovations in Civil Engineering Education II

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.502.1 - 15.502.9



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Paper Authors


Tanya Kunberger Florida Gulf Coast University

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Dr. TANYA KUNBERGER is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental and Civil Engineering in the U.A. Whitaker School of Engineering at Florida Gulf Coast University. Dr. Kunberger received her B.C.E. and certificate in Geochemistry from the Georgia Institute of Technology and her M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil Engineering with a minor in Soil Science from North Carolina State University. Her area of specialization is geotechnical and geo-environmental engineering.

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Robert O'Neill Florida Gulf Coast University

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

Engineers of the Round Table: Utilizing a Discussion Forum to Enhance Student Learning in Geotechnical Engineering


Analysis and design are often critical components of most senior level courses, particularly those that follow introductory courses. Emphasis tends to be placed on the calculations necessary to ensure proper design and/or analysis can be performed, and that results conform to established standards of the given topic. This paper considers the concept that students should be able not only to analyze or design particular components or systems, but also be able to analyze, evaluate, and comment upon work that has been accomplished by others in the field. The belief is that it is important to focus on the students’ ability to synthesize information, to be able to critically evaluate research that has been done by others in the various areas of engineering, and to relate the analysis and design that students are performing in the classroom to a larger picture of what is occurring in engineering.

This paper discusses the incorporation of discussion forums (roundtable discussions) into a senior level geotechnical engineering course. The class is the second in a two course sequence in geotechnical engineering, and required for all civil engineering majors. Roundtable discussions occurred on a weekly basis and focused on a technical paper related to current class topics. Prior to coming to class, students were expected to have read the paper, as well as considered the discussion questions provided to them by the instructor. A portion of these discussion questions were specific to the paper itself, while others were more general in nature and the same for all roundtable papers. Many of the paper specific questions were designed to focus discussion on the important points, while the more general questions were open-ended and allow for flexibility in the direction of discussion. Students were asked to participate in full class discussions and smaller group discussions, as well as online wiki (collaborative website which allows for community editing to develop a cohesive, interactive, and constantly evolving source of information) discussions outside of class. Every paper did not utilize every discussion technique, but rather techniques were varied with the intent of maximizing student interest, participation, and, ultimately, learning.

The idea of developing the skill to critique others’ work, comment on strengths in a paper or proposed hypothesis, in a particular research program or a given case study, assists in addressing ABET outcomes g (an ability to communicate effectively), i (a recognition of the need for, and an ability to engage in life-long learning), and j (a knowledge of contemporary issues). This synthesis and evaluation also requires mastery of a higher level of the cognitive domain as identified in Bloom’s taxonomy. Evaluation and assessment was conducted through the use of pre and post minute papers, student surveys and self evaluation of ABET outcomes, assessment of relevant course learning objectives as well as class instructor and visiting professor observations.


Kunberger, T., & O'Neill, R. (2010, June), Engineers Of The Round Table: Utilizing A Discussion Forum To Enhance Student Learning In Geotechnical Engineering Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15678

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