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Work in Progress: Inquiry-Based Learning in Transportation Engineering

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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

Inquiry, Inclusivity, and Integration

Tagged Division

Civil Engineering

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Paper Authors


Ilgin Guler Pennsylvania State University

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S. Ilgin Guler is an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. Her research interests include multi-modal urban traffic operations and control, intelligent transportation systems, connected and autonomous vehicles and infrastructure management. She received dual B.S. degrees from Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey in Civil Engineering and Industrial Engineering and Operations Research. She received her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of California, Berkeley in Civil and Environmental Engineering. After completing her Ph.D., she served as a post-doctoral scholar in the Institute of Transport Systems and Planning at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Dr. Guler has over 7 years of research, teaching and industry experience on traffic operations. Dr. Guler has been the primary author to multiple research proposals funded by institutions such as the Pennsylvania DOT, South Dakota DOT, Swiss National Science Foundation and Swiss Association of Road Transportation Experts. She is currently serving as the Penn State PI on NCHRP 17-84: Pedestrian and Bicycle safety performance functions for the Highway Safety Manual.
Dr. Guler’s research has resulted in 25 peer-refereed journal articles and 30 refereed conference proceedings on topics that include multi-modal traffic safety, multi-modal traffic operations and multi-modal traffic control. Dr. Guler serves as the major research advisor for Ph.D., Master’s and undergraduate students. She teaches courses on Highway Engineering, Traffic Operations, Public Transportation and Infrastructure Systems Management. Dr. Guler is the winner of the 2018 Fred Burggraf Award for the Best Paper in Transportation Research Record, the Journal of the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies. Dr. Guler serves as an active member of the Transportation Research Board’s Traffic Flow Theory and Characteristics committee (AHB 45) and serves on the Editorial Boards of Transportation Research Part B and Transportation Research Part C.

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Stephanie Cutler Pennsylvania State University, University Park

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Stephanie Cutler has a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech. Her dissertation explored faculty adoption of research-based instructional strategies in the statics classroom. Currently, Dr. Cutler works as an assessment and instructional support specialist with the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education at Penn State. She aids in the educational assessment of faculty-led projects while also supporting instructors to improve their teaching in the classroom. Previously, Dr. Cutler worked as the research specialist with the Rothwell Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence Worldwide Campus (CTLE - W) for Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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Sarah E Zappe Pennsylvania State University

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Dr. Sarah Zappe is Research Associate and Director of Assessment and Instructional Support in the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education at Penn State. She holds a doctoral degree in educational psychology emphasizing applied measurement and testing. In her position, Sarah is responsible for developing instructional support programs for faculty, providing evaluation support for educational proposals and projects, and working with faculty to publish educational research. Her research interests primarily involve creativity, innovation, and entrepreneurship education.

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Introduction to Transportation Engineering is a core undergraduate civil engineering course that covers the fundamentals of design and operation of roadways. The topic of this course is unique since all students have existing personal experience with transportation systems, which is not often the case for other core civil engineering courses. For this reason, transportation engineering is especially well suited for active or inquiry-based learning. However, this advantage is rarely leveraged in the education of transportation engineering topics. This paper reflects a work-in-progress of a study on the implementation of inquiry-based learning in a junior-level introduction to transportation engineering course. The goal is to teach a module that will introduce the operation of traffic signals to students using inquiry-based learning. As a part of this work, a new class session focusing on demonstrating the impacts of signals installed at intersections and their impacts on traffic operations was developed. The beginning of the class session was used to present students with several real-world case study situations of traffic operations at signalized intersections under different scenarios. These case studies were presented using real-time video footage of intersections in [the university’s town] that is available through the state’s online traveler information system. Video cameras are installed along a major arterial in [the university’s town]. During these modules, students were presented with the objectives of the class along with captured videos from traffic cameras at a few intersections. The students were given a short introduction and were then provided with some guiding questions to explore. The video captures were carefully curated such that the questions could be answered based on the different situations that arise in each video. The students used in-time class to observe the videos, and lead discussions in small groups on their observations along with their answers to the guiding questions. Then, a classroom discussion took place led by the instructor to reinforce the ideas. In order to assess the impact of the inquiry-based learning module, a short post-survey was used. The post-survey evaluated the knowledge of the students on signalized intersections, along with students’ overall satisfaction with and assessment of this module. The feedback indicated that the students were satisfied with the way the class was taught and that the method of instruction kept them engaged and focused. This feedback will be used to improve the instructional material and exercises for future offerings of this class. This method will be continue to be developed over the next few offerings of the course, and tests on how well this method can be used for other topics in transportation engineering courses will be conducted. Additionally, a more thorough evaluation of the effectiveness of the proposed methodology will be conducted in the future offerings of this course. Based on the results of this work, ways of using inquiry-based learning in transportation engineering courses, along with other courses in civil engineering will be identified.

Guler, I., & Cutler, S., & Zappe, S. E. (2020, June), Work in Progress: Inquiry-Based Learning in Transportation Engineering Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35653

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