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Student's Ownership Of Class Project Improves Learning

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2005 Annual Conference


Portland, Oregon

Publication Date

June 12, 2005

Start Date

June 12, 2005

End Date

June 15, 2005



Conference Session

Curriculum Development in Civil ET

Page Count


Page Numbers

10.1164.1 - 10.1164.13



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Paper Authors

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Aiman Kuzmar

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

Student's Ownership Of Class Project Improves Learning

Aiman S. Kuzmar, Ph. D., P. E. The Pennsylvania State University


An alternative approach to the project assignment process in the Steel and Reinforced Construction courses (AET 214 and AET 215 respectively) in the Architectural Engineering Technology Program at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus was introduced and implemented in the past four years. Instead of dictating the project topic by the instructor, the students were given the freedom to choose their own topics with a few necessary restrictions.

This paper gives details on this alternative approach. As usual, there are advantages and shortcomings. This paper outlines these positive and negative elements in addition to suggestions to improve the new approach. Over a four-year period, the students chose a wide variety of topics. The students became creative in this regard. The appendices of this paper list these topics. The paper offers an evaluation of this alternative approach through instructor’s observations and students’ comments. Embedded in the paper is a comparison between this alternative approach and the traditional way of assigning course projects.


Several educators have reported that the implementation of new and alternative teaching methods improves learning by students1-5. In engineering and engineering technology education, the ASEE supports this by making new teaching techniques as one of the topics in its annual conference as well as in its annual chapter conferences6. Several alternative teaching techniques have been implemented in the specific courses of steel and concrete in civil engineering and civil engineering technology education7, 8.

Many courses in almost all disciplines, from Sociology9 to English10, require a term project and consider it an important part for various reasons. This is true in almost all engineering and engineering technology fields including steel and concrete construction courses. A traditional format for assigning the project in these two particular courses was used in the Engineering Technology Program at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus prior to the year 2001. A different approach in assigning the course project in these two courses has been implemented since 2001. A brief description of the traditional approach is given next followed by a detailed outline of the new approach including highlights on how the switch between the two formats led to improvements in the learning process.

The importance of course projects

In a typical course, the instructor teaches students a set of related theories and concepts, one theory or concept at time over a fifteen-week period. Short assignments are usually

“Proceedings of the 2005 American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2005. American Society of Engineering education”

Kuzmar, A. (2005, June), Student's Ownership Of Class Project Improves Learning Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon. 10.18260/1-2--14493

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