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The Impact of Internships on Civil Engineering Students’ Exploration of Learning Styles

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

High-impact Learning Practices

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Hwangbo Bae University of Florida

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Hwangbo Bae is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering in the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering at the University of Florida. He received a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech in 2018 and 2019, respectively. His major interests in research include understanding civil/construction engineers' professional development, the value of leadership that influences worker safety, and the workplace dynamics that increase the performance and sustainability of the construction workforce.

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Madeline Polmear University of Florida Orcid 16x16

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Madeline Polmear is a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering at the University of Florida. Her research interests include workforce development and engineering ethics education.

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Denise Rutledge Simmons P.E. University of Florida Orcid 16x16

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Denise R. Simmons, Ph.D., PE, LEED-AP, is an associate professor in the Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering in the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering at the University of Florida. She holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in civil engineering and a graduate certificate in engineering education – all from Clemson University. She has over ten years of construction and civil engineering experience working for energy companies and as a project management consultant.

Dr. Simmons has extensive experience leading and conducting multi-institutional, workforce-related research and outreach. She is a leader in research investigating the competencies professionals need to compete in and sustain the construction workforce. Dr. Simmons oversees the Simmons Research Lab (, which is home to a dynamic, interdisciplinary mix of graduate researchers and postdoctoral researchers who work together to explore human, technology and society interactions to transform civil engineering education and practice with an emphasis on understanding hazard recognition, competencies, satisfaction, personal resilience, organizational culture, training, informal learning and social considerations. The broader impact of this work lies in achieving and sustaining safe, productive, and inclusive project organizations composed of engaged, competent and diverse people. The SRL is supported by multiple research grants, including a CAREER award, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Dr. Simmons is a former project director of the Summer Transportation Institute (STI) at South Carolina State University and Savannah River Environmental Sciences Field Station (SRESFS). Both programs were aimed at recruiting, retaining and training women and minorities in transportation, environmental science and engineering and natural resources-related fields of study. As SRESFS director, she led a board composed of 29 colleges and universities.

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The undergraduate experience is important for developing competencies for the civil engineering workforce. In addition to the classroom experience, internships can be impactful for students’ learning opportunities to have hands-on experience, to apply their skills and knowledge, to experience a work environment, and to develop relationships with professionals. While internships have been studied in various disciplines, few studies have tried to understand how civil engineering students demonstrate their learning behaviors during an internship. Previous studies used Kolb’s experiential learning model as a theoretical framework to explore students’ learning styles as part of an internship experience. This study extends the use of Kolb’s model as a theoretical framework by focusing on civil engineering students to examine their internship experiences and apparent patterns of learning styles. Kolb’s experiential learning theory involves four learning modes: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, active experimentation; and four learning styles: diverging, assimilating, converging, and accommodating. Taking a deductive qualitative approach, a priori codes from Kolb’s theory were used to analyze transcripts from interviews with 14 civil engineering students from four different US universities. This study contributes to an understanding of civil engineering students’ demonstration of learning behaviors in an internship. Internships provide a different context than classrooms, which can be valuable for student learning. Therefore, faculty members are encouraged to support students in seeking out internships to facilitate students’ exploration of learning styles in various learning contexts.

Bae, H., & Polmear, M., & Simmons, D. R. (2020, June), The Impact of Internships on Civil Engineering Students’ Exploration of Learning Styles Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35330

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