Student Mastery of Structural Analysis with Design Review

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American Society of Civil Engineers
Traditional structural engineering pedagogy has consisted of students preparing for class by reading a textbook, followed by a professor giving a lecture, followed by students doing individual homework. Students received feedback in terms of a grade from the professor, and, ideally, the student filed the graded work and possibly reviewed it again before an exam. This process repeats itself as the professor moved from one topic to the next with little consideration given to anyone or anything more being part of the learning process besides the professor, the textbook, and the student. Most faculty would agree that undergraduate students often skip the reading prior to class. Furthermore, studies have shown that almost half of all students do not pay attention to material presented during a lecture. Thus, it is critical for the structural engineering profession, a profession for which small mistakes can lead to death or millions of dollars in repairs, to modify its pedagogy. This past semester, the civil engineering students in structural analysis participated in a cooperative learning technique aimed at improving student learning. Instead of turning in individual homework to the instructor for a grade, students paired up with a peer and checked each other’s work prior to submitting their completed homework. The expectation was that when disagreements were discovered between students, they would discuss with each other where the error or misunderstanding existed and subsequently correct the error. This not only required students to explain the work they completed, but it provided additional contact time with the material. From a faculty perspective, this provided the essential cooperative learning characteristic of positive interdependence because individual student learning increased as the pair improved in their design review. As a student incentive to complete a thorough review, the quality of review counted for at least 10% of each assignment. In addition, each pair of students turned in the assignment together for one grade with work chosen for the instructor to grade separated by work for the instructor to check for completion. In the event one student did not complete the assignment in time to conduct a review with their partner, the individual student’s grade was negatively impacted, providing individual accountability. This cooperative learning was used on seven of the nine homework assignments in the course. At the end of the course, student feedback was collected with five Likert scale questions and two open-ended questions. This paper will make the case that this pedagogy benefits the structural engineering profession by: getting young engineers in the practice of what engineer’s already do (check each other’s work), increasing student understanding of structural analysis, and improving the ability of future structural engineers to communicate their work clearly and effectively.
Structural engineering pedagogy
Hill, “Student Mastery of Structural Analysis with Design Review.” 2018.