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Going Out on a Limb: Using Poetry to Reinforce Civil Engineering Concepts

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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

Innovative Pedagogy and Assessment in Civil Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.647.1 - 24.647.15



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Paper Authors


Brock E. Barry PE U.S. Military Academy

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Dr. Brock E. Barry is an Associate Professor and Director of the Mechanics Group in the Department of Civil & Mechanical Engineering at the United States Military Academy, West Point. He is a licensed professional engineer with 10 years of experience as a consulting engineer.

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Going Out on a Limb: Using Poetry to Reinforce Civil Engineering Concepts  Many educators, with a range of years of experience, have equated their classroom teachingactivities to acting. The renowned actress prepares for a scene by studying her lines, consideringher audience’s perspective, and channeling the director’s vision. The engineering instructorprepares for a lesson by studying her board notes, considering her audience’s prior understandingof course content, and channeling the department’s and/or ABET, Inc.’s expectations on whatmust be taught. Actors often describe a mixture of excitement and apprehension as they take tothe stage. Similarly, teachers compelled by an internal desire to provide the best possiblelearning experience for their students, will also acknowledge a similar mixture of excitement andapprehension as they enter a classroom. It is when actors and teachers alike have the ability tochannel that excitement and overcome their apprehension, that they have potential to deliver a“great performance.”What then could be said for the engineering instructor that has become “comfortable” in theclassroom after a number of years delivering a particular subject? Presumably, that instructorstill cares about his or her students and is motivated to deliver a great lesson, but with increasingexperience comes a potential loss of excitement and apprehension that actors and instructors canso effectively channel.This paper presents the results of a deeply personal introspection on the subject of intentionallytaking oneself out of a comfort-zone in the classroom with the real goal of continuous teachingimprovement. Specifically, this paper discusses one civil engineering educator’s implementationof reading engineering poetry in the classroom throughout a course to both reinforce concepts forhis students and to go “out on a limb” beyond his comfort zone in an effort to capture andchannel those feelings of excitement and apprehension.The hypothesis associated with this study was that by intentionally taking one’s self out of acomfort zone in front of students, the instructor was ultimately more comfortable in theclassroom. Secondarily, it is also suggested that the students associated with the courseappreciated and respected the instructor’s attempt at using a non-traditional method ofengineering instruction. Finally, an attempt has been made to determine if the use of poetryactually assisted with learning reinforcement of the civil engineering concepts.The paper generated by this study includes a concise review of the literature related to comfort inthe classroom, a detailed and transparent discussion of the research methods employed during thestudy, a summary of interview and survey results, and clear conclusions addressing the statedresearch questions. It is anticipated that this paper will be of interest to any civil engineeringeducator with the willingness to go out on a limb.**NOTE: This abstract and the associated paper were accepted to the 2013 ASEE AnnualConference. The final manuscript was pulled from the proceedings. Financial and travelrestrictions at the author’s academic institution precluded participation in the conference.**

Barry, B. E. (2014, June), Going Out on a Limb: Using Poetry to Reinforce Civil Engineering Concepts Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20538

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