This project was developed as a Phase I Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement (CCLI) educational research project that involved the development and implementation of various desk top models, demonstrations, and student-centered teaching techniques in the classroom to improve the comprehension and retention of difficult course concepts while targeting various learning styles. The proposed educational devices and methods are referred to as Geotechnical Concept Tools (GCT). Sometimes it takes something as simple as a 3D object in front of a student for their ‘light to turn on’. The goal is to use creativity to provide the students with something visual and interactive while keeping the tools simple and repeatable.
Dr. Warren teaches Geotechnical Engineering (CEGR 3278) at UNC Charlotte, which is a required Civil Engineering course. This course was organized into four ‘Content Modules’ including topics related to 1) Soil Structure, 2) Seepage and Effective Stress, 3) Consolidation, and 4) Shear Strength. The participating students in the first two semesters served as the ‘Control Group’. Subsequently, the GCT were systematically implemented into the classroom during the second two semesters, and these participating students served as the ‘Treatment Group’.
A comprehensive evaluation plan was conducted by an independent assessment expert in the UNC Charlotte College of Education while utilizing a team of internal and external experts in the area of Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Education. The goal of the evaluation plan was to evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation process and assess the impact of the GCT on student comprehension and retention using both ‘pre-post single group outcome design’ and ‘comparison (cross-sectional) group design’ methods. After conducting an academic survey across the US, it became evident that some Geotechnical Engineering faculty members in other Civil Engineering programs have attempted similar ideas in the classroom during the course of a semester, but successes and failures are rarely documented and/or disseminated, and the impact of the effort is rarely evaluated in a formal way. The Principle Investigator is not aware of another study that involves the formal assessment of a four semester long project comparing ‘Control Groups’ to ‘Treatment Groups’ involving the use of classroom aids in a Geotechnical Engineering course.