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Making Connections: Ensuring Strength of the Civil Engineering Curriculum

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Making it Sticky: Ways to Reinforce Prerequisite Knowledge

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Jakob C Bruhl P.E. U.S. Military Academy Orcid 16x16

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Lieutenant Colonel Jakob Bruhl is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Mechanical Engineering at the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY. He received his B.S. from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, M.S. Degrees from the University of Missouri at Rolla and the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, and Ph.D. from Purdue University. He is a registered Professional Engineer in Missouri. His research interests include resilient infrastructure, protective structures, and engineering education.

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A fundamental structural design philosophy is to make connections stronger than the elements they connect. The same must be true within engineering education: the connections between concepts and courses must be stronger (or at least as strong) as the content learned. Teachers are encouraged to create structure for new knowledge, sometimes referred to as scaffolding. This scaffolding, much like shoring for a reinforced concrete building, can only be safely removed when the knowledge structure created by the student has gained sufficient strength, including connection strength. An inability to recall previously learned knowledge is a symptom of an underlying problem: a lack of effective understanding of engineering concepts and principles to then see their application in a new context. In other words, the connections between concepts and applications are weak. To address this underlying problem, civil engineering students at the US Military Academy at West Point were required to solve review problems on each homework assignment in two civil engineering design courses. This paper describes the theoretical underpinnings of these assignments and their implementation. Assessment includes three semesters of academic performance, time spent outside of class, student feedback, and teacher observations.

Bruhl, J. C. (2020, June), Making Connections: Ensuring Strength of the Civil Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34941

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