2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Assessment of Students’ Prior Knowledge and Learning in an Undergraduate Foundation Engineering Course

Presented at Balancing Act: Ideas in Pre- & Post- Surveys and Assessment of Professional Skills

Most undergraduate Civil Engineering programs in the United States offer two courses related to geotechnical engineering; one in soil mechanics and the other in foundation engineering. Typically, students take the soil mechanics course during their junior year which focuses on the index and engineering properties of soils. The foundation engineering course is primarily taken by students in their senior year. This course applies the concepts learned in the first course to the analysis and design of foundations. A study was conducted at four primarily undergraduate institutions with Civil Engineering programs (a public university in the Southeast; and three private universities, two in the Northeast and the other in the Central United States). The institutions selected for this study focus primarily on undergraduate teaching. To assess the understanding of key concepts in foundation engineering, a background knowledge probe (pre-test) and course knowledge survey (post-test) were developed. The pre-tests were administered to measure students’ prior geotechnical engineering 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 the semester to assess the knowledge gained as a result of the course experience. Additionally, the pre- and post-test instrument was used to measure the effectiveness of various pedagogical approaches and variations in the geotechnical engineering curriculum at these institutions. Detailed statistical analyses were performed using the collected data from three semesters, and preliminary results show that the students gained significant understanding on the various concepts in foundation engineering, and also point to differences in the curriculum at various institutions.

  1. Dr. Suresh Immanuel Selvaraj University of Evansville [biography]
  2. Dr. Matthew Sleep Oregon Institute of Technology [biography]

The full paper will be available to logged in and registered conference attendees once the conference starts on June 24, 2017, and to all visitors after the conference ends on June 28, 2018

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