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Experiential Learning Exercised Through Project Based Instruction

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.485.1 - 6.485.6



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Paper Authors

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Norman Dennis

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

Session Number 1315

Experiential Learning Exercised Through Project Based Instruction Norman D. Dennis, University of Arkansas


This paper describes the use of students with work experience as team leaders to promote peer-to peer teaching and learning. This concept is employed in a senior-level design course titled Foundation Engineering. The course utilizes a scenario based semester-long design problem as the major learning vehicle. The design problem requires the development of a facility; typically a shopping mall, office complex or hospital, that is set on a real 100-acre agricultural site owned by the University. The scenario provides the basic functional requirements of the facility and a topographic map, which roughly delineates the property boundaries. Student teams are responsible for developing a functional site layout, planning a subsurface exploration program, selecting and designing shallow and deep foundations, locating and designing retaining walls, and synthesizing all activities into a comprehensive geotechnical report to a client. The problem is completely open-ended, allowing the students to use a substantial amount of individual creativity in their designs. However, the open nature can overwhelm students who have no exposure to land development activities. To combat this, design teams of 3 or 4 students are selected on the basis of pairing experienced students with non-experienced students. The results of this pairing activity have significantly improved the learning experience for all students. Evidence is presented that indicates design submissions have improved in content, accuracy and realism over submissions from teams that are randomly or self selected.

Introduction While the concept of co-oping is not strong at the University of Arkansas (about one or two students per semester) the student population in the Civil Engineering Department at the University of Arkansas is composed of approximately 20 percent non-traditional students. These students are older than average, often support a family and typically have some previous work experience relating to the construction field or site development. An additional 10-15 percent of the students are employed as part-time quality control or CAD technicians at local engineering firms. This base of students with limited engineering experience forms a tremendous core of peer teachers who can significantly enhance the learning of their less experienced classmates.

This experience base is put to work in Foundation Engineering where these experienced students are used as peer teachers. Foundation Engineering, CVEG 4143, is normally taken by students in their senior year and is a required course in the civil engineering program. In accomplishing the major objectives of this course, students are required to produce an unconstrained site layout for some type of commercial facility, plan a subsurface exploration program for their site,

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Dennis, N. (2001, June), Experiential Learning Exercised Through Project Based Instruction Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9257

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