Making Connections: Ensuring Strength of the Civil Engineering Curriculum

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ASEE Conferences
A fundamental structural design philosophy is to make connections stronger than the elements they connect. The same must be true within engineering education: the connections between concepts and courses must be stronger (or at least as strong) as the content learned. Teachers are encouraged to create structure for new knowledge, sometimes referred to as scaffolding. This scaffolding, much like shoring for a reinforced concrete building, can only be safely removed when the knowledge structure created by the student has gained sufficient strength, including connection strength. An inability to recall previously learned knowledge is a symptom of an underlying problem: a lack of effective understanding of engineering concepts and principles to then see their application in a new context. In other words, the connections between concepts and applications are weak. To address this underlying problem, civil engineering students at the US Military Academy at West Point were required to solve review problems on each homework assignment in two civil engineering design courses. This paper describes the theoretical underpinnings of these assignments and their implementation. Assessment includes three semesters of academic performance, time spent outside of class, student feedback, and teacher observations.
Structural design philosophy, Assessment
Bruhl, J. C. (2020, June), Making Connections: Ensuring Strength of the Civil Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line. DOI: