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Enhancing A Reinforced Concrete Design Course By Linking Theory And Physical Testing

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Physical Models and Other Interactive Tools

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.582.1 - 11.582.14



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Paper Authors


Douglas Cleary Rowan University

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Douglas Cleary is an Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engingeering at Rowan University. He is a registered professional engineering and serves on two committees withing the American Concrete Institute including E802-Teaching Methods and Education Materials. He received his BSCE, MSCE, and Ph.D degrees from Purdue Univeristy in 1987, 1988, and 1992, respectively.

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

Enhancing a Reinforced Concrete Design Course by Linking Theory and Physical Testing


The paper presents a model for improving reinforced concrete design courses by incorporating physical beam testing. This model was implemented in a course that did not have a laboratory component. The beams tested were full-scale and demonstrated two flexural failures of varying ductility, a shear failure, and an anchorage failure. The beams were tested throughout the semester as appropriate with the material that had been covered in the course. A reporting process was followed that required students to submit laboratory reports for each beam test, address comments received on each report, and submit a final report covering all four tests. It was found that the beam testing and report writing program enhanced student learning in the course and improved the pedagogy. The physical testing of concrete beams also allowed better coverage of several ABET outcomes. As the course was not scheduled with a laboratory component, the testing did result in reduced coverage of end-of-course material however this was offset by improved understanding of reinforced concrete fundamentals. The paper includes a description of the testing program and reporting process and discussion of the improved pedagogy and course outcomes.


Courses in reinforced concrete design typically provide students with the fundamental properties of the constituent materials, apply basic mechanical principles to problems of flexure and compression, and then advance to analysis and design topics as they are more empirically presented in the relevant building codes. The importance of hands-on active learning has long been an integral part of education theory. Educational Psychologist Jean Piaget states that optimal learning occurs through “active methods” which “require every new truth to be rediscovered or at least reconstructed” by the student1. The National Science Foundation2 argued in 1993 that “Engineering curriculum reform is necessary to meet the objectives of enhancing the acceptability of US industrial products in the international market” and that hands-on experiences should be an integral part of that reform3. Having students design, fabricate and test reinforced concrete beams has been shown to effectively enhance two reinforced concrete design courses4, 5. In the first case, the course had additional credit hours in a laboratory component, in the second it did not. When structural testing is part of the course or a lab, it benefits students by providing hands-on experiences and a physical demonstration of the concrete behavior that can be contrasted with and used to emphasize the concepts taught in the classroom.

A non-comprehensive review of syllabi available online for reinforced concrete design courses indicated a variety of approaches, but the majority of programs did not include a laboratory component. When there is a lab component, it is often a calculation/problem solving exercise rather than a physical lab. Examples of how reinforced concrete design courses have been enhanced in other ways include design of two- and three-story frames6 and self-selected literature reviews, design, or research projects by student teams7. These additional activities are

Cleary, D. (2006, June), Enhancing A Reinforced Concrete Design Course By Linking Theory And Physical Testing Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--117

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