A study was conducted at three primarily undergraduate institutions with civil engineering programs (a public university in the Southeast; two private universities, one in the Northeast and the other in the Central United States). A background knowledge probe (“pre-test”) and course knowledge survey (“post-test”) were developed based on key concepts in geotechnical engineering to assess the knowledge gained in undergraduate geotechnical engineering courses. Two sets of pre- and post-tests were developed: one for an introductory course in geotechnical engineering /soil mechanics, and the other for a second course in geotechnical engineering (on foundations, slope stability, and earth-retaining structures). The pre-tests were administered over a span of four semesters (twice in both Geotechnical Engineering I and Geotechnical Engineering II) to measure students’ prior geotechnical knowledge and to identify student misconceptions at the beginning of each semester. The same short-answer test (post-test) was administered on the last day of semester to assess knowledge gained as a result of the course experience. Detailed statistical analyses were performed using the collected data and preliminary results show that the students gained significant understanding on the various concepts in geotechnical engineering over the course of the two semesters. Additionally, the pre- and post-test instrument was used to measure the effectiveness of various pedagogical approaches at these institutions, as well as the logistics by which these courses are offered.
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