Learning to be Real Engineers

Authors: Gribble, Susan J.; Scott, David; Mawdesley, Mick; Al-Jibouri, Saad

Source: Architectural Engineering and Design Management, 1 January 2006, vol. 2, no. 1-1, pp. 101-114(14)


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Most engineering programmes around the world now ensure students develop specified graduate attributes and achieve clearly stated learning outcomes. Not only do engineering graduates require technical knowledge and skills, they also need to demonstrate that they have acquired competencies related to the more social aspects of engineering practice. Working in teams, communicating with people from diverse backgrounds and conducting themselves in an ethical and responsible way are some of these types of learning outcomes that are expected of engineering graduates. An 18-month study has been conducted with more than 250 undergraduate students at Curtin University of Technology (Perth, Australia) into the effectiveness of a simulation in developing these outcomes. In the study, close attention was paid to learning theory and research methodology associated with investigating educational settings. The information gathered focused on how students reacted to the simulation as a learning tool, the ways in which students used the simulation to learn and the learning outcomes students achieved through their learning experiences. The study demonstrated, in the main, that students believed that the simulation was an effective learning tool for them and they recognized that the simulation helped them to develop skills in applying their fundamental engineering knowledge to a civil engineering construction project. They also developed understanding about how their engineering decisions affected the workplace, people and the environment. Students were confident that the simulation taught them much about working as part of a professional team because they had to cooperatively plan, monitor, control and report on their project. Furthermore, the study showed that the simulation should be part of a holistic teaching and learning experience in which explicit teaching strategies are required so that students gain optimum learning by using the simulation.

Keywords: Civil engineering; constructivist learning; interpretive research; simulation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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