International Construction Specialty Conference of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering (ICSC) (5th : 2015)

Teaching engineering literacy to non-engineering students in formal learning environments El Asmar, Mounir; Chokor, Abbas; Grau, David


Since enrollment rates in American college engineering programs have been constantly dropping, formal and informal processes to teach and learn engineering are on the rise. An opportunity actually exists to formally teach engineering to construction students in US colleges and universities. If non-engineers understand how science and technology work, they can better interact with scientists and engineers in the workforce and make informed decisions about when technology can be a solution to a problem, or when other solutions maybe more adequate. To this date, higher engineering education has been repeatedly investigated through the lenses of engineering programs and degrees. This paper investigates engineering literacy for non-engineering students, by comparing the performance of engineering and non-engineering students when gaining engineering literacy. The methodology of this study consists of analyzing the performance of construction management (CON) and civil and environmental engineering (CEE) students in comparable courses taught in both programs: introduction to geotechnical engineering and geotechnical applications. Data is collected over four distinct semesters. The results reveal that CON students scored significantly higher grades when the course was offered from a non-engineering perspective rather than from an engineering perspective. The results of the study highlight the need to develop clear and consistent teaching methods and techniques that take non-engineering students’ diverse backgrounds into consideration.

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