On course for success20 January 2005
Efrossini C. Kalkani, Iris K. Boussiakou, and Leda G. Boussiakou analyse the procedures that educational theories suggest for classroom learning, and apply these procedures in restructuring a civil engineering course in Hydraulic Structures and Dams for an international audience
A higher level engineering course on Hydraulic Structures and Dams, previously taught at the School of Civil Engineering, National Technical University of Athens, Hellas, is being restructured for an international audience using educational theories and successful education practices. The instructor of the course for the last 22 years being the first of the authors, with the assistance of the two experienced co-authors is reorganising the course to meet the requirements of the global civil engineering profession regarding the international societal and environmental needs.
All the students who have taken the course so far are civil engineering students, who indicate large interest in both the lecture and the practice session. The class has a homogeneous population of senior engineering students. The course is taught to groups of 25 to 35 students, and the learners have a three-year experience in their engineering studies already. These learners have chosen the orientation of the hydraulic engineer in civil engineering. The learners registered to this class do not always have the opportunity to take the Learning Styles Test (Soloman and Felder, 1999) and the Personality Type Test (Advisor Team 2002). However, due to their three-year attendance at the engineering school certain main characteristics with higher or lower intensity are present, such as active and reflective, visual and verbal, sensing and intuitive, sequential and global characteristics of learners. Most of the learners are towards the active, visual, sensitive and sequential side of the measuring scale. Regarding the personality type most of the learners are of the Guardian and the Artist Types.
This research considers two main learning theories, develops the course syllabus according to the theories, and compares the new elements of the syllabus to successful educational practices discussed by other researchers in papers published in international journals.
The learning in the classroom can be analysed by employing different learning theories. Such theories as the Knowledge Structure, Piaget’s Concrete and Formal Operational Stages, Myers-Briggs Intuitive versus Sensing, Perry’s Model of College Student Development, and Deep versus Shallow Approaches to Learning are discussed and evaluated for their advantages elsewhere (Wankat, 1999).
The learning theories employed in this paper to restructure the Hydraulic Structures and Dams course are Kolb’s Theory on Experiential Learning (Kolb, 1984) and Bloom’s Educational Taxonomy (Bloom and Krathwohl, 1956).
The authors use the four quadrants and the sequence of abstract conceptualisation, reflective observation, concrete experience and active experimentation (Kolb, 1984), and move further to more simple terms such as thinking, watching, sensing/feeling and doing (Stice, 1987, McCarthy, 1987) in revising the syllabus of the course and in readjusting the lecture and practice sessions of the course for each subject taught.
Also, the authors use the six levels of thinking skills in the cognitive domain (Krathwohl et al., 1964) to structure the requirements of the course, expecting the learners to obtain the knowledge, comprehension, and application of the subjects taught, and continue with quizzes, homework and projects to educate learners in analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
To convey the course reform to the international learners, the instructors compile the course syllabus, which will guide the learners through the semester with the issues to be taught and the dates of lectures, and class work. The revision of the course included in this research considers the development of the syllabus in a document that primarily sets the objectives of the course, and as individual tasks defines the material to be taught in a weekly schedule, the course expectations and classroom rules, the learner evaluation system and the reference material to be used in the course.
The course syllabus is a two to three pages explanation on the course, which is available to the learners the first day of teaching in the classroom and on the internet, and represents a customary procedure to most western universities. The course syllabus includes the course title, the term, the year, and information on the instructor, their office hours and addresses. The syllabus is distributed the first day of classes and serves as an agreement between the instructor and the learners. This agreement includes the responsibility of the instructor to teach and evaluate learners’ performance, and the responsibility of learners to learn, develop their skills and get a passing grade. If the syllabus is inadequate, mainly based on internal or external factors and societal developments, it is the duty of the instructor to reform and revise the syllabus, which is the reason why this research is performed.
Course description and objectives
The course syllabus will include important information for the learners. The main information will be on the description of the course, the prerequisites, the required text, the course objectives, the expectations of learners’ behaviour and performance, and also information on the add and drop policy, and academic integrity.
The description of the course is a paragraph on the content of the course. The course entitled Hydraulic Structures and Dams includes issues and design methods on water storage and flood control structures, conveyance structures, irrigation and drainage channels, river diversion, headrace tunnels and intakes, spillways and bottom outlets for dams, energy dissipation structures and surge tanks, navigation structures and fish ladders, gates and valves, pumps and hoists. The course also includes issues and design methods of the different types of dams, concrete gravity dams, buttress dams, arch dams, earth and rock-fill dams, central or inclined impermeable cores, upstream-face-slabs, grout and drain curtains, upstream aprons, and dam instrumentation. Also included is the societal needs for water and flood control, the legal and environmental issues of hydraulic structures and dams, issues in economics, finance, construction management, water rights and decommissioning of structures.
The prerequisites of the course are the required courses in the civil engineering curriculum on hydraulics and hydrology, soil mechanics and foundation engineering, and structural design of metal and concrete structures. Knowledge of geology, economics and finance is also necessary, as well as knowledge of cost analysis and project management issues.
The required textbook is the book ‘Water Resources Engineering’ (Linsey et al., 1992). Handouts are usually given during the course on international case histories to be evaluated in class. All other material outside the textbook will be put on a web page for the course and will be easily accessed by the learners on the internet.
The course objectives include the knowledge and skills, which the international learners will acquire during the course. By the end of the course, the learners will be able to:
• Understand the societal, environmental, legal, technical, and economic issues of installing hydraulic structures and dams.
• Evaluate the needs of the society in hydraulic structures and dams, evaluate effects of resettlement and rehabilitation of people.
• Calculate the volumes of water storage needed and the regulated flow for domestic, agricultural and industrial water uses.
• Understand flood protection and control structures, flood damage mitigation.
• Determine the environmental issues, water rights and legal issues expected in a project.
• Design the layout of conveyance structures from the storage reservoirs to the water users.
• Design the access roads, landscaping, and intersections of conveyance structures with existing goods transportation structures.
• Design the river diversion with tunnels or channels in one or more stages.
• Design headrace tunnels, intakes, and surge tanks, navigation structures, fish ladders.
• Design spillways and bottom outlets with energy dissipation
• Design concrete, buttress, arch, earth, rock-fill dams, with vertical or inclined impermeable cores or upstream concrete slabs, incorporating environmental issues.
• Design the grout and drain curtains of dams, provide upstream impermeable aprons and downstream drainage layers.
• Select the appropriate electromechanical equipment such as pumps, motors, gates and valves, hoists and gantry cranes which will be used in the project.
• Understand construction project management issues of hydraulic structures and dams.
• Calculate the quantities of materials, cost of structures, the durations of the construction activities, the sequence of the activities, and prepare the budget and time schedule of construction.
• Understand operation and maintenance issues of the hydraulic structures and dams.
• Understand issues of structures refurbishment, monitoring, decommissioning and removal.
The expectations of the course require attendance of the learners in the classroom and participation in the lecture. The learners are expected to answer quizzes and questions in the classroom orally and in writing, to participate in class discussions, to make oral presentations, to turn in homework, and perform above average in the Group Project and in the Final Exam.
The policy on safety issues, and the emergency evacuation information regarding earthquakes, fire, and terrorists’ actions are the standard university and school policies that the learners are expected to be aware of and prepared for action while attending classes. The Academic Affairs Committee for the university sets the description of add and drop policy for the course, the policy on academic integrity, including plagiarism and all the consequences for the students.
Reform on the weekly schedule
The course syllabus refers mainly to the weekly schedule of classes, which includes the subjects of the lecture and the practice sessions. The schedule of assignments is connected to the weekly schedule of lectures and practice activities. The schedule of class lectures and activities is given below as a weekly schedule. Instructions for the field trip are given in advance of the trip.
The Hydraulic Structures and Dams course is scheduled as a four credit-units course, which consists of two hours lecture and two hours practice. The course is taught once a week and the practice session follows the lecture session. The subjects of the course are distributed over 14 weeks and are put in sequence according to content. Each weekly session has the lecture delivered in class with demonstrations to create thinking and observing, followed by a sensing and feeling stage with class discussions and descriptions of structures, and then by a doing stage of learner producing sketches of cross sections and plans of the structures and developing design calculations. The overall weekly schedule of class time for the revised international course is presented in Table 1.
Learners evaluation and reference material
The course syllabus will also include information on the evaluation system for the learners and the reference material to be used.
A description on how the learners will be evaluated and how the grades will be assigned is given in Table 2. The homework is assigned throughout the semester and is collected, graded and returned at the next class session. Assignments turned in late will be given a reduced grade (10% reduction of the grade for each day of delay). Class quizzes will be given at the practice session and will cover material taught the same day or relevant material of previous lectures. The Group Project will be the teamwork of four to five learners on the design of certain hydraulic structures and a dam on a topographic map of a river basin, using information on the available water flow, the geology of the site, materials available, and the environmental constraints and water and property rights at the site. The Final Exam will be comprehensive on a firm date and will include all the material taught in advance of the exam.
The grading system shown in Table 2 presents the maximum points to be earned by the learners for the different graded items. The points earned at each graded item will be the sum of the points assigned to each problem of the graded item. The points assigned to each problem will be given to the learners along with the statement of the problem, and will be segmented into the different parts or questions of the problem. The extra work assigned to those who want to add up points to their final grade is presented as ‘Bonus Points’ in the last column of Table 2.
The reference material to be used in the course includes books, journals, and professional, scientific or engineering organisations publishing material on hydraulic structures and dams. A list of the reference material is included in Table 3.
The main outcomes and results of this paper are associated with the research performed for the restructuring of a course for an international audience and with the previous experience of the authors in educational issues. The major objectives require that the restructured course:
• Addresses the global societal, legal and environmental issues in teaching hydraulic structures and dams.
• Satisfies the learning styles of international learners by employing effective teaching sequence in the classroom, from thinking, observing to sensing and doing.
• Pursues the higher educational objectives of analysis, synthesis and evaluation by requiring learners to solve problems and perform design of structures.
To address the first objective the authors investigated the mission and objectives of the World Commission on Dams (WCD). The issues the WCD is interested in are the social impact of large dams, vulnerability of indigenous people, resettlement and rehabilitation, ecosystem functions and environmental restoration, assessment of engineering projects (electricity supply, irrigation, water supply, flood control), water management issues, operation, monitoring and decommissioning of dams, economics and financial issues, institutional framework and regulations, negotiations and conflict management, health related issues and affected archeological sites. In the restructuring of the weekly schedule of the course, subjects such as societal needs, resettlement and rehabilitation, as well as environmental and legal issues were incorporated.
To address the second objective the authors assumed that all the learning styles would be present in the classroom, with greater emphasis on the active, visual, sensitive, and sequential styles. The authors decided to restructure the weekly schedule in a way to incorporate a thinking and observing stage, a sensing and feeling stage, and a doing stage for each issue taught. There is no exact separation of the material in the lecture and practice sessions of the course, however it is clear that the thinking and observing stages belong to the lecture session and the doing stage belongs to the practice session. The sensing and feeling is an intermediate stage for the smooth transition of the lecture session to the practice session. Time wise there will be a freedom to the instructor to move timely from the thinking to the doing stage depending on the learners’ understanding of the subject during the four hour period of the course.
To address the third objective the authors will require the learners to answer quizzes, make lists, descriptions and diagrams in the sensing and feeling stage, and move in the doing stage towards solving problems, develop sketches of plans and cross sections, and perform hydraulic, structural, and foundation design. The methods and solutions will be discussed and evaluated in the classroom and may be followed by a repetition of the loop of the thinking levels. The sequence of knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation will take the learners through all the levels of the cognitive domain for each issue of the course and will train them in the design sequence applied by professional engineers.
In addition to the main objectives the authors will take into consideration educational techniques experienced by other researchers. Regarding the learning styles of the students, the assessment of their learning styles will be required in the beginning of the course. Researchers found that the prediction of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator helps engineering instructors to design the instruction in a way to benefit students (Felder et al., 2002).
The authors will apply active experimentation and analysis of the procedures in solving problems by the learners. Researchers found that engineering students are inclined to learn by active experimentation (Jahanian and Matthews, 1999) and by developing the procedure of their designs (Atman and Bursic, 1998). Also, researchers found that physical demonstrations can be used successfully in the classroom (Okamura et al., 2002).
Regarding invention, creativity and innovation the authors will encourage learners in developing layout and design alternatives. Researchers experienced teaching invention, innovation and entrepreneurship in engineering and business students’ groups (Wang and Kleppe, 2001). Also researchers encouraged students to develop creative, independent thought and deep level of understanding by journal writing exercises before discussing in class (Korgel, 2002).
The authors will give special attention to homework and group projects, oral and writing skills of the learners, interrelation of issues taught, analysis and synthesis, and learner satisfaction. Research on these areas, and especially on grading teamwork (Kaufman et al., 2000), on encouragement in practicing and developing students’ oral and written technical communication skills (Sageev and Romanowski, 2001), on development of students’ higher level skills such as analysis, synthesis and evaluation (Young and Stuart, 2000), and on students’ performance outcomes, satisfaction and retention rates (Haag and Palais, 2002) can be found in the literature.
The authors will emphasise in the classroom the concerns for the environment, as well as legal and complex issues. Regarding the environmental education, researchers employ two main directions: learning to scientifically define how environmental processes work and learning how to value and feel concern for the environment (Hyde and Karney, 2001). Regarding legal and complex issues researchers provided experiential learning opportunities to students (Mohtar and Engel, 2000).
With regards to professional ethics the learners will discuss in class the issues that the practices of civil, geological, and environmental engineers have many common ethical and information disclosure problems, due to extensive interaction with stockholders (owners, designers, contractors, regulatory agencies, and the public), while handling unpredictable natural situations and unknown design parameters. A series of exercises were developed in the classroom to make students familiar with similar situations (Santi, 2000).
Further research in restructuring the course in hydraulic structures and dams will require testing the reactions of international learners and their performance in the classroom, and evaluate the efficiency of the reform and the feedback from the learners with the goal to finalise the educational changes presented in this paper.
The primary objective of this paper is to restructure a higher-level course on Hydraulic Structures and Dams for an international audience. The methods and procedures employed are the Kolb’s Theory on Experiential Learning and Bloom’s Educational Taxonomy. The syllabus of the course is developed to include the four quadrants of learning and the six levels of thinking skills. The course syllabus will include the description of the course, the prerequisites, the required text, the course objectives, the expectations on learners’ behaviour and performance, and also information on the add and drop policy, and academic integrity. The course syllabus will also include the weekly schedule of classes, information on the evaluation system and the reference material to be used by the learners. The main outcomes and results refer to the opportunity of the learners to experience thinking, observing, sensing, and doing for each subject taught in the classroom on hydraulic structures and dams. Also, the learners will have gained the knowledge, comprehension and application of the subjects taught, and moved towards the analysis, synthesis and evaluation of the problems and solutions. After taking the course the learners will be able to understand societal and environmental issues, plan the layout and the preliminary design of hydraulic structures and dams, and perform economic, financial and project management calculations. The implications for further research will be to test the efficiency of the reform in the classroom and evaluate the feedback from the international learners towards finalising the educational changes presented in this paper.
The authors are Efrossini C. Kalkani, Civil and Environmental Engineering, San Jose State University, Iris K. Boussiakou, Kent Law School, University of Kent, UK, and Leda G. Boussiakou, Department of Physics, University of York, UK
|Table 3. Reference material suggested for learners in Hydraulic Structures and Dams.|