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Using An Assessment Test To Identify Important Aspects Of Education

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Emerging Trends in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.1368.1 - 9.1368.6

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Paper Authors

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Ryan Kowalski

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Paul Santi

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

Session Number

Using an Assessment Test to Identify Important Aspects of Education

Paul M. Santi, Ryan J. Kowalski Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO 80401


Quite often, in addition to teaching technical skills, we must teach some abstract and intangible skills. In the field of geological engineering, one of these skills is the ability to use geologic information to design optimal subsurface investigations of sites for foundations, chemical contamination, or geologic hazards. In order to teach this skill, a computer simulation program was developed, so that students could complete realistic investigation exercises in real time. In conjuction with the program, an assessment test has been used to track students’ site investigation skills by comparing trends in test scores. A number of practicing professionals also completed the assessment test, and an analysis of the results of their tests, and the accompanying background questions, has been used to identify important educational and experience components that contribute to site investigation skills. Consequently, it is our conclusion that similarly designed assessment tests can be used in any field to identify and verify the value of specific classes or other educational experiences towards development of intangible skills.

Program and Assessment Test

We began developing BEST SiteSim in 1998, a computer simulation program that would place students squarely in the midst of a realistic site investigation. The program is part of the Basic Engineering Software for Teaching (BEST) series developed by the Instructional Software Development Center at the University of Missouri-Rolla. With BEST SiteSim, students are responsible for selecting boring locations and depths, using their geologic knowledge to develop a three-dimensional understanding of the subsurface, requesting lab tests and interpreting the results, and completing evaluation and design based on their conclusions.

We have used the databases from BEST SiteSim for five years (1998-2002) in a Subsurface Exploration class at the University of Missouri-Rolla, and we have used the computer program for two years (2002-2003) in a Site Investigation class at the Colorado School of Mines, impacting over 140 students. Students have overwhelmingly supported the use of simulated investigations, and they recognize the value of integrating their knowledge and applying it to solve complex, open-ended problems. [1]

As one of several methods to evaluate the program’s effectiveness, we created an open- ended assessment test to gauge an individual’s abilities to plan and carry out a site investigation. Because the test also requests information on educational background and work experience, it is

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Kowalski, R., & Santi, P. (2004, June), Using An Assessment Test To Identify Important Aspects Of Education Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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