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How does the Transfer of Construction Engineering Expertise Impact the Cognition and Work Practice of the Engineers in the Construction Work Force?

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Global Education in Construction Education

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

22.783.1 - 22.783.8



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Paper Authors


David Grau University of Alabama

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David Grau is an Assistant Professor at The University of Alabama. Recently, his work in the field of engineering education has focused on investigating the barriers and opportunities for the integration of best construction engineering practices into the curricula of higher education colleges and universities in North America. In addition, Dr. Grau has investigated the impact of a continuous training program in the discipline of construction engineering on the learning and work behavior of practicing engineers in the construction workforce. Currently, he investigates the effect of a novel program to increase the retention of first-year undergraduate students enrolled in an engineering college. The program also aims at increasing engineering student success, enhancing the sense of community and belonging by the students, and improving the transfer of knowledge in the engineering disciplines. In order to succeed in his research endeavors, Dr. Grau frequently collaborates with social scientists and educators. Prior to his academic career, he worked for more than seven years both leading an engineering department and managing complex industrial projects in South and Central America, and Europe. He is a registered Industrial Engineer in Spain and holds both a M.S. and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas, Austin.

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Edward Back University of Alabama


Guillermo Mejia University of Alabama and Universidad Industrial de Santander

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Guillermo Mejia is a Ph.D. student at The University Alabama. He is also a professor at Universidad Industrial de Santander, Colombia, where he teaches construction courses in the Civil Engineering Department. Recently, Mr Mejia has been awarded with a Fulbright scholarship, and he has joined to Professor Grau’s research team at the University of Alabama in order to pursue his Ph.D. studies. Mr Mejia has been interested in research on construction educational issues. Currently he is researching about teaching and learning strategies that boost the performance skills of civil engineering students at Universidad Industrial de Santander.

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DOES THE TRANSFER OF CONSTRUCTION ENGINEERING KNOWLEDGE IMPACT THE WORK PRACTICE OF THE ENGINEERS IN THE CONSTRUCTION WORK FORCE?Since the discipline of construction engineering was only regulated as a formal discipline ofprofessional practice (by NCEES) in 2008, current engineers in the workforce have, for the mostpart, no formal education in the construction discipline. This study represents a primary step toinvestigate the answer to fundamental questions about the need to transfer constructionengineering knowledge to practicing engineers in the construction workforce. For instance,would such transfer of knowledge have a positive impact on the practicing engineers? If so,would the transfer of construction engineering knowledge increase the ability of the engineers tounderstand the construction processes that they lead? Would such knowledge affect their workpractice? In order to answer these and other fundamental questions, this study has investigatedthe impact of a continuous training program in the discipline of construction engineering on thelearning and work behavior of Supervising Discipline Engineers (SDE) affiliated with a largeU.S. design and construction organization.The continuous training effort consisted in three intensive face-to-face sessions, each of whichcovered one of the following topics: front end planning, project execution methods, and projectteam dynamics. We separately instructed the three sessions in a two months period over three,five, and two day durations, respectively. Once the training had been completed, a self-assessment questionnaire was designed to inquire the SDE engineers about their changes inlearning and work behavior before and after engaging in the construction engineering program.In order to capture the long term and sustained impact of the program, the engineers were invitedto fill the pre- and post-assessments several months after the completion of the program. Thislate after-the-fact self-assessment allowed the participants to respond with a coherent and solidbasis of judgment. Class material (assignments, exams, participation) and anecdotal evidence(emails, notes) were used to validate the answers of the respondents. Finally, phone interviewscomplemented the data collection process.The results of the pilot study indicate that there is a significant opportunity to transferconstruction engineering knowledge to the engineers in the U.S. construction workforce. EachSDE engineer evaluated his/her prior and after-the-fact knowledge in each of the three impartedtopics. Indeed, the education program resulted in a significant and consistent increment inconstruction engineering knowledge among the participants. The differences between the pre-and post-training means in the knowledge of the three instructed topics are actually statisticallysignificant. Also, this study found that the training program had a positive effect on the workbehavior of the SDE engineers. Specifically, it was found that the training program increasedboth the understanding and communication of the SDE engineers with experts in otherdisciplines, and the utilization of construction engineering principles to deliver a capital facilityproject.

Grau, D., & Back, E., & Mejia, G. (2011, June), How does the Transfer of Construction Engineering Expertise Impact the Cognition and Work Practice of the Engineers in the Construction Work Force? Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18064

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