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Similarities and Differences in Architectural, Civil, and Environmental Engineering Students’ Perceptions of the Body of Knowledge

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Expanding Access and Opportunities for M/30

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1158.1 - 25.1158.19



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Paper Authors


Angela R. Bielefeldt University of Colorado, Boulder

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Angela Bielefeldt, Ph.D., P.E., is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering at the University of Colorado, Boulder. She has served as the ABET Assessment Coordinator for the department since 2007, and recently completed the ABET self-study report for reaccreditation of the civil engineering B.S. degree. She teaches the first year Introduction to Civil Engineering course, the capstone design course for environmental engineering, and other environmental engineering specialty courses.

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Similarities and Differences in Architectural, Civil, and Environmental Engineering Students’ Perceptions of the Body of KnowledgeThe skills and attributes desired for architectural (AR), civil, and environmental (EV) engineershave much in common. The structural and construction management sub-disciplines overlap to alarge extent between civil and architectural engineering. The water resources and environmentalsub-disciplines overlap to a large extent between civil and environmental engineering. Energyissues are popular among both architectural and environmental engineering students. Therefore,at many universities, the curricula for AR, civil, and EV engineering have significantcommonalities. At __ University all three programs share ~32% of the required course credits incommon, with a minimum of an additional 12% in common between Civil:AR and 10% incommon between Civil:EV. To explore similarities and differences in these disciplines asperceived by students, their opinions on a Body of Knowledge (BOK) survey, senior exit survey,and Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam performance were compared.The BOK survey was distributed to students as part of the lifelong learning module in the threeseparate capstone design courses. Students were asked to rank the ASCE’s 24 BOK2 outcomesfrom most to least important to their future careers. Among students in all three majors, designand problem solving were by far the top ranked outcomes; communication and teamwork wererated between 3 to 6 by all majors; and there was also consensus among the bottom rated items(public policy 22, social science 23, humanities 24). Outcomes with the greatest divergencebetween the majors were: mechanics, natural science, contemporary issues, math, andsustainability. Items with the greatest differences of opinion within AR majors based on max –min rank were: sustainability, science, and experiments (ranked by some as high as 1 and othersas low as 24). Among civil engineering students the greatest differences of opinion were for theoutcomes sustainability, ethics, math, and breadth. Finally, among EV students the greatestdifferences of opinion were for math and communication. Students also rated which outcomesthey felt needed greater coverage in the curriculum at __ University. On average, sustainabilityranked first or second in all three majors, and design ranked in the top three in all majors. Bothcivil and architectural engineering seniors rated problem solving and business & public policy inthe top five. Technical specialization was ranked 4 and 6 by environmental and architecturalmajors, respectively.Differences in the perceptions of senior students were also determined from graduating seniorsurveys administered by the College of Engineering. For example, using the calendar year 2010data, civil engineers ranked the importance of math, lifelong learning, and research higher thanarchitectural engineering majors. The perceived achievement of the outcomes was higher forarchitectural engineering vs. civil engineering majors for: communicate via drawings, designexperiments, teamwork, and modern tools; civil students were higher in knowledge ofcontemporary issues. Environmental engineers ranked their achievement higher in oralcommunication, written communication, social context, and ethics. In addition, theFundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam is required for students in all three majors, and theresults were compared. Recognizing similarities and differences points to items that areimportant for all students and should be emphasized, as well as the need to allow studentsflexibility to develop a skill set best suited to their future career aspirations.

Bielefeldt, A. R. (2012, June), Similarities and Differences in Architectural, Civil, and Environmental Engineering Students’ Perceptions of the Body of Knowledge Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21915

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