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Re Envisioning Construction Engineering And Management Education Through Experiential Learning

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Trend in Construction Engineering Education I

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1063.1 - 11.1063.16



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Paper Authors

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Eddy Rojas University of Washington

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Carrie Dossick University of Washington Orcid 16x16

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

Re-Envisioning Construction Engineering and Management Education through Experiential Learning


One of the major challenges in construction engineering and management education is transferring knowledge from classroom environments to the field and practice of construction engineering and management. McCabe et al.12 argue that much of civil engineering coursework teaches only theories of engineering and construction and that students may encounter difficulties when applying these theoretical constructs to real world situations. Sawhney et al.18 maintain that many civil and construction engineering curricula do not allow the inclusion of issues of importance to industry, the participation of practitioners, or hands-on experience.

The University of Washington’s Department of Construction Management has embarked on an ambitious project to develop a 28,000 sq. ft. research and education center, the Pacific Northwest Center for Construction Research and Education, to foster experiential learning and research in construction engineering and management. The Center is divided into three major functional areas: the Virtual Construction Laboratory, the Methods and Materials Laboratory, and the Construction Education Laboratory. Experiential learning has been introduced as a methodology that combines problem-solving skills with theoretical principles to redefine engineering education in order to meet the demands of the industry14. The University of Washington envisions the Pacific Northwest Center for Construction Research and Education as a place where learners will experience construction engineering and management theory and skills first hand, while researchers will study pedagogy and education methodologies related to engineering education.

Experiential learning can be defined as a constructivist pedagogical approach where learners build understanding through rich environments that encourage exploration and discovery. The teacher’s role changes from that of a cognitive place holder to one that guides the actions in meaningful activities with practical and functional representations2. This paradigm is antagonistic to archetypal school activity and may be anathema to those accustomed to the didactic lecture-based models. However, it has been shown that students learn more effectively and permanently when they can actively participate in the learning process4.

Experiential Learning and Construction Engineering and Management

Traditional construction engineering and management education follows the Cartesian view of mind-matter dualism where the learner and the learning context are detached. As a result, concepts are presented as fixed, well-structured, independent entities and classroom activities are disconnected from authentic context, resulting in fragmentation and specialization of courses and educational experiences. This fragmentation of knowledge has been identified in the construction domain5,9 and is partially responsible for the polarization of learner and learning context. Under this paradigm, learners can recall concepts when they are explicitly required to, but even in relevant situations, students are unable to apply the concepts spontaneously.

Rojas, E., & Dossick, C. (2006, June), Re Envisioning Construction Engineering And Management Education Through Experiential Learning Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--572

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