April 20, 2017
April 20, 2017
April 22, 2017
Diversity and Pacific Southwest Section
This work describes the instructional design process used to create an introductory module on biogeotechnical engineering. Biogeotechnical engineering is an emerging subfield of geotechnical engineering that involves applying biochemical reactions or biological mechanisms found in nature to design and build more sustainable civil systems. The module was developed by an interdisciplinary team of engineering and education faculty working together at a NSF-funded Engineering Research Center. The center was established with the goal of learning from nature to transform the engineering of geotechnical systems to address infrastructure-related challenges using biogeotechnics. In order to disseminate the extensive research conducted at the center to student populations, we created a customizable, 60 to 90 minutes long lecture that civil engineering instructors can readily incorporate into their current curriculum. The emphasis of the module is to raise awareness about the field of biogeotechnics among freshman engineering students, with the ultimate aim of motivating them to consider degrees, and eventually careers in biogeotechnical engineering. The module uses direct instruction, multi-media, group discussion, and reflection activities to cover technical topics including the link between nature and sustainable engineering, fundamental principle behind biogeotechnics, and an overview of bio-inspired and bio-mediated geotechnical processes. In addition, to further spark student interest and motivation, the module also includes informative slides on geotechnical career trends as well as future research and career options for undergraduate students in the field.
We used van Merriënboer’s Four Component Instructional Design (4c/ID) model as the design base since the 4c/ID model addresses the issue of teaching complex skills that can be applied to real-world problems. In addition, to promote deeper learning the instructional slides and learning activities were designed to align with Merrill’s first five principles of instruction. The current work describes how we applied the principles of learning theories and instructional design to provide an introduction to a complex engineering domain. We emphasize that the aim of this work is not to examine the results of the instructional delivery of the module per se, but to describe the instructional design process we followed to develop the material.
Finally, the paper addresses a few critical issues related to building engaging and effective content for incoming students. The promising instructional design strategies outlined here could be generalized and applied to other domains.
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