Assessing the Impact of Educational Factors on Conceptual Understanding of Geotechnical Engineering Topics

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Article - Open Access

Publication Title

American Society for Engineering Education 2018 Annual Conference and Exposition


American Society for Engineering Education

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Abstract/ Summary

A study on student understanding of geotechnical engineering topics was conducted at several private and public institutions with civil engineering programs. The institutions vary significantly with respect to their size, student population, location, and Carnegie classification. A background knowledge probe (“pre-test”) and course knowledge survey (“post-test”) were developed based on fundamental concepts in geotechnical engineering to assess the knowledge gained in an introductory undergraduate geotechnical engineering course. The pre-and post-tests were administered over a span of several semesters at these institutions to measure the students’ prior geotechnical engineering knowledge, and the knowledge gained as a result of the course experience, respectively. The purpose of this study is to examine several variables that may correlate with the amount of knowledge gained in the conceptual understanding of geotechnical engineering topics. The educational factors of interest include class size, class meeting time (e.g., morning, mid-day, or afternoon), class length and format (e.g., three times a week for 50 minutes vs. twice a week for 75 minutes), laboratory format (e.g., attached to the course vs. separate from the course), institution type (e.g., public vs. private; Carnegie classification), and faculty attributes (e.g., rank and obtainment of P.E. license). Through detailed statistical analyses, preliminary results show that correlation exists between the amount of knowledge gained in conceptual understanding and a few independent variables (most predominantly, the type of institution). This paper presents the institutional context, geotechnical engineering curricula, educational factors considered, results of statistical analyses, conclusions, suggestions for future research and discusses conditions for optimizing student learning in undergraduate geotechnical engineering courses.

Publisher Statement

© American Society for Engineering Education, 2018