Asee peer logo

Strategies for Creating Engagement in Civil Engineering Students in Lecture Scenarios

Download Paper |


2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Civil Engineering Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1403.1 - 26.1403.9



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Alan Chong University of Toronto

visit author page

Alan Chong is a Senior Lecturer with the Engineering Communication Program at the Univ. of Toronto, and is the communication coordinator for Civil Engineering, where he teaches a second year communication course, and administers a third year civil engineering portfolio.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Strategies for Creating Engagement in Civil Engineering Students in LectureScenariosTeaching a required engineering communication course to sophomore civil engineers, especially in alarge classroom lecture setting, presents some significant challenges. Students in general face anumber of roadblocks to engagement in lecture settings, including lecture/PowerPoint fatigue,physical fatigue from their demanding workloads, and the distraction of other often more pressingcourse commitments (such as upcoming exams or assignments). These challenges are exacerbatedwhen the subject being taught is not particularly conducive to lecture-style teaching or perceived asrelevant to their disciplinary knowledge base, such as engineering communication. In such scenarios,strategies for creating engagement at the beginning of lectures are crucial to gaining and maintainingstudent attention, and creating the student buy-in that is key to their learning.The discipline of civil engineering, however, is unique from other engineering disciplines inpresenting numerous opportunities for engagement with cultural touchstones relevant to students ofall levels. The general population engages daily with the products of civil engineering by usinginfrastructure, such as roads, buildings, and water systems. Our connection to these artifacts of civilengineering are reflected in products such as popular music, film, and other media which holdcultural currency with students. This presentation explores strategies that take advantage of thisstrong connection between civil engineering and culture to create engagement for civil engineeringstudents in lecture settingsWe examine three strategies developed and piloted during a single semester course on EngineeringCommunication in Civil Engineering. In this presentation, we will first play “Civil EngineeringThemed Musical Trivia,” in which students compete within the lecture classroom to identify the titleand artist for songs with either a titular or lyrical connection to civil engineering. Songs range fromthe highly contemporary - such as Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball and Demi Levato’s Skyscraper - to olderclassics - such as Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water or Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi.Second, we examine how both new and old multimedia, such as A Short History of the High-rise — acollaboration between the New York Times and the National Film Board of Canada — or films byEdward Burtynsky, such as Manufactured Landscapes and Watermark, can be introduced prior to lectureto get students thinking about important engineering concepts such as sustainability. Finally, weexplore how local, municipal political issues – such as the highly transportation focused [cityredacted] mayoral race - can be used (in a non-partisan way) to demonstrate the significance of theirchosen discipline to their daily lives.All of these strategies, which take 2-5 minutes at the beginning of the lecture, encourage students tofocus their attention and engage with the material being presented, with the hope that this attentionwill be carried over to the lecture material. During the presentation, these strategies will bedemonstrated to the audience, and their impact on student engagement over the course of a classdiscussed, using data from student evaluations, student-instructor interactions, and lectureexperience.

Chong, A. (2015, June), Strategies for Creating Engagement in Civil Engineering Students in Lecture Scenarios Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24740

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015