"Green Projects to Pavements": A Project-based Learning Approach to Introducing Sustainability to Civil Engineering Students
2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings
Marshall is an Assistant Professor of civil engineering at the University of Colorado, Denver, and Co-director of the Active Communities Transportation (ACT) research group. He focuses on transportation research dedicated to building a more sustainable infrastructure, particularly in terms of improving road safety, active transportation, and transit-oriented communities. Other recent research topics involve transportation planning, congestion pricing, human behaviors, parking, and street
... s. A native of Watertown, Mass., Marshall is a recipient of the Dwight Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship and winner of the Charley V. Wootan Award for Outstanding TRB Paper. Abstract Today's education system generally adheres to a deductive style where instructors present the fundamentals that lead to application. In addition, the majority of engineering students are visual, sensing, and active learners, whereas traditional delivery of course material in engineering academia is auditory, passive, and sequential. The objective of this study was to evaluate the problem-based learning approach in introducing sustainability and concrete mixture design in an effort to increase student learning. The goal of any instructor is to engage students and find more effective methods of teaching course topics. This study addresses these objectives and provides faculty teaching similar courses at other institutions the necessary information needed to implement this program. Sustainability is a major topic that is being addressed by cities, states, and national governments around the world. This Green Projects-to-Pavements program introduces the topic of sustainability while enhancing materials learning through a project-based learning approach. This program was implemented in a junior level civil engineering course, Introduction to Structural Materials, at the University of Colorado Denver. Students were provided a project goal (design, test, and place a sustainable concrete pavement) and given access to resources that aided in their design of a sustainable concrete mixture. The instructor acted as a facilitator and advisor to the students instead of using a deductive approach, such as lecturing on the topic. Students were active in performing their own research rather than being passive listeners in course lectures. In addition, the students mixed and tested concrete themselves, which provided for a more "hands on" role in the learning process. The performance of each student was assessed over a semester of observations via (1) weekly project group meetings, (2) oral presentations by each group, (3) a technical report, (4) end of semester feedback by the students, and (5) final exam questions. The results of this study indicate that this program was beneficial for introducing students to sustainability in regards to civil engineering materials. Student feedback was very positive regarding this project and scores on project related questions on the final exam demonstrated that students developed a clear understanding of how materials could be used to achieve a sustainable concrete mixture.