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Lessons Learned on the Redesigb of Content and Learning Strategies for an Introductory Course to Construction in Civil Engineering

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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

Tricks of the Trade in Teaching I

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1012.1 - 22.1012.11



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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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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 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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The Attitude and Learning of the Engineering Student as a Measure to Design the Instructional Strategies in the Civil Engineering Department at the Universidad Industrial de Santander, ColombiaIn recent years, Latin American governments have been adopting the UNESCO policy toprioritize the quality and the international outreach of the higher education institutions inemerging countries. In particular, Colombia, in the eve of a much brighter political andeconomic environment, is facing major challenges to better educate their civil engineers. Thus,there is a compelling need to update the currently outdated instructional methods in order to a)equate the education of the civil engineers in Colombia with that of lead countries, b) meet theminimum requirements of a new model law, that, for the first time, recognizes the figure of aprofessional civil engineer, and c) meet the international standards of the ABET accreditationor similar boards. This study represents the first step at analyzing the current instructionalstrategies in the Civil Engineering Department at the Universidad Industrial de Santander, andtheir influence in the attitude and learning aspects of the student. The long term andoverreaching objective of this study is to improve the retention and performance of the civilengineering student by means of novel instructional strategies.In its primary phase, this study has concentrated around the “Basics of Construction” course –the introductory course to the construction engineering discipline. Quantitative and qualitativemethods were used to collect data from the students. These methods were inclusive of atailored Felder Test, a questionnaire-survey, and an open-survey filled by the students. In total,data was collected over a period of 18 months with almost 200 student responses. The data wasstatistically analyzed in order to identify the instructional strategies that resulted both in apositive student attitude and in an improved transfer of knowledge. Further insights to explainthe student responses and to analyze and improve the current instructional strategies wereobtained by means of informal discussions, short student interviews, class materials (problems,exams, quizzes, etc…), faculty group meetings, and personal notes.The major outcomes of this study are two fold. First, the content on cost estimating, planning,and scheduling is instructed in parallel from the first day of class rather than in a sequentialmanner. The data analysis revealed that the sequential learning of these interrelated topics hadprevented the students to solve advanced problems requiring the simultaneous reasoning inestimating, planning, and scheduling. Since such advanced problems were only introduced atthe end of the semester, the sequential methodology negatively affected the performance of thestudents. Second, the implementation of practical workshops were investigated as a mechanismfor the student to better consolidate the course content by means of practical problems and realcase studies. For instance, the students, with computer help, have to search for unit costs ofbasic labor, material, and equipment, in order to estimate the cost of an activity as they woulddo in real life. Such workshops allow the students to study in a work-like situation and improvetheir decision making skills. These two instructional changes have been pilot tested in thecourse and have resulted in higher student satisfaction, comprehension, and performance.

Grau, D., & Mejia, G. (2011, June), Lessons Learned on the Redesigb of Content and Learning Strategies for an Introductory Course to Construction in Civil Engineering Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18278

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