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Learner Centered Educational Software For Constitutive Modeling Of Soils

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.363.1 - 4.363.11

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Paper Authors

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Timothy Robert Wyatt

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Emir Jose Macari

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

Session 1668

Learner-Centered Educational Software for Constitutive Modeling of Soils

Timothy Robert Wyatt, Emir Jose Macari Georgia Institute of Technology


An educational software package has been developed and tested for its potential to convey aspects of constitutive modeling of soils to civil engineering undergraduate and graduate students. The software accounts for tenets of learner-centered design (LCD): (1) the software is intended to encourage individual exploration; and (2) students are expected to experience personal growth through use of the package, and thus the software itself adapts to accommodate this growth. Individual motivation is enhanced through interactive visualization of constitutive modeling concepts such as effective stress states and their corresponding yield surfaces. The student begins with fundamental mechanics concepts (stress invariants conversion) and must demonstrate proficiency in each topic, by performing an associated task, before moving to more advanced topics. Using the LCD concept known as intrinsic scaffolding, as the student moves to increasingly complex topics, he/she is given more powerful visualization tools and increased control over material parameters, loading conditions, and options for display of the results. The difficulty of the required proficiency task also increases accordingly. After completing the final topic (calculation of incremental strains), the student is given full capability to simulate a variety of stress and strain paths, such as true triaxial soil tests, including three-dimensional display of test results. Preliminary post-test evaluation has revealed that the scaffolded approach allayed student concerns and increased student motivation.

I. Background

The Geosystems graduate program at the Georgia Tech School of Civil and Environmental Engineering offers both M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. Students in both degree tracks are required to take four core courses: a course in fundamental soil mechanics (CE 6150), two lab testing courses (CE 6151 and 6161), and a course in field testing and measurement (CE 6162). A number of other courses are offered in topics such as advanced soil mechanics and constitutive modeling, practical design (such as foundations and retaining walls), and geo-environmental engineering. Upon completion of the core courses, most students pursuing M.S. degrees elect not to take the advanced mechanics courses such as Constitutive Modeling of Soils and Computational Soil Elasto-Plasticity due to a fear that the concepts may be too complex for them to understand. Despite the fact that the purpose of the classes is to instill a more complete understanding of soil behavior, M.S. students generally consider the mechanics concepts too abstract for practical application. Thus, M.S.-level students tend to focus their research and study plan into areas that they view as more practical. The problem is that a strong understanding of mechanical concepts is important in all aspects of geotechnical engineering. In engineering practice, design procedures often make use of mechanics-based equations that have

Wyatt, T. R., & Macari, E. J. (1999, June), Learner Centered Educational Software For Constitutive Modeling Of Soils Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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