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Experiential Learning From Internships In Construction Engineering

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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

6.486.1 - 6.486.32

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Paper Authors

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Robert Tener

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Michael Winstead

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Edward Smaglik

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

Session 1315

Experiential Learning from Internships in Construction Engineering

Robert K. Tener, Michael T. Winstead, Edward J. Smaglik Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana


The fundamental, educational value of internship experience in undergraduate construction engineering education is explored. Analysis of learning outcomes from the structured, construction internships required for the B.S. degree in Construction Engineering and Management at Purdue University are compared with experiential learning theories of Kolb and others, providing a basis for explaining how internship learning “works.” The nature and benefits of construction internships which comprise authentic involvement are presented. Students’ reported learning experiences are compared to the four modes of experiential learning, concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation. Prevalent learning modes during construction internships are found to be active experimentation and reflective observation, and it is inferred that the dominant learning style in a construction environment is the accommodative learning style postulated by Kolb. Conclusions are drawn based on data from 170 student reports from internship work sites across the country over two years. Important observations include the realization that quality internships enable students to “learn how to learn” in ways that are highly applicable in their future work environments, and that are not otherwise attainable in classroom learning. It is shown that undergraduates are more adequately developed for many demands of their future practice when educators make high-value experiential learning a part of the curriculum.

A. Introduction

Purposes of the study

The analysis reported in this paper is part of a broader effort to substantiate three hypotheses which are believed to characterize experiential learning from effective, undergraduate student internships in the practice of construction engineering and management. These hypotheses are:

1. The knowledge gained by students through experiential learning from internships in construction constitutes significant and uniquely valuable preparation for the requirements of their future professional practice in that field;

2. Much of the learning which is gained during these internships cannot be attained in any other way, especially not in the classroom, and

3. A valuable outcome of construction internships is “learning how to learn,” a situation which deserves

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

Tener, R., & Winstead, M., & Smaglik, E. (2001, June), Experiential Learning From Internships In Construction Engineering Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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