July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Educational Research and Methods
Engineering graduates need a deep understanding of key concepts in addition to technical skills to be successful in the workforce. However, traditional methods of instruction (e.g., lecture) do not foster deep conceptual understanding and make it challenging for students to learn the technical skills, (e.g., professional modeling software), that they need to know. This study builds on prior work to assess engineering students’ conceptual and procedural knowledge. The results provide an insight into how the use of authentic online learning modules influence engineering students’ conceptual knowledge and procedural skills. We designed online active learning modules to support and deepen undergraduate students’ understanding of key concepts in hydrology and water resources engineering (e.g., watershed delineation, rainfall-runoff processes, design storms), as well as their technical skills (e.g., obtaining and interpreting relevant information for a watershed, proficiency using HEC-HMS and HEC-RAS modeling tools). These modules integrated instructional content, real data, and modeling resources to support students’ solving of complex, authentic problems. The purpose of our study was to examine changes in students’ self-reported understanding of concepts and skills after completing these modules. The participants in this study were 32 undergraduate students at a southern U.S. university in a civil engineering senior design course who were assigned four of these active learning modules over the course of one semester to be completed outside of class time. Participants completed the Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG) survey immediately before starting the first module (time 1) and after completing the last module (time 2). The SALG is a modifiable survey meant to be specific to the learning tasks that are the focus of instruction. We created versions of the SALG for each module, which asked students to self-report their understanding of concepts and ability to implement skills that are the focus of each module. We calculated learning gains by examining differences in students’ self-reported understanding of concepts and skills from time 1 to time 2. Responses were analyzed using eight paired samples t-tests (two for each module used, concepts and skills). The analyses suggested that students reported gains in both conceptual knowledge and procedural skills. The data also indicated that the students’ self-reported gain in skills was greater than their gain in concepts. This study provides support for enhancing student learning in undergraduate hydrology and water resources engineering courses by connecting conceptual knowledge and procedural skills to complex, real-world problems.
Gallagher, M. A., & Byrd, J., & Habib, E., & Tarboton, D., & Willson, C. S. (2021, July), HydroLearn: Improving Students’ Conceptual Understanding and Technical Skills in a Civil Engineering Senior Design Course Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37265
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