Portable Hands-On Experiments in Geotechnical Education

Wolfgang Fellin, Barbara Schneider-Muntau*, Getraud Medicus, Division of Geotechnical and Tunnel Engineering, Institute of Infrastructure, Department of Engineering Science, University of Innsbruck, Austria

An earlier version of this paper was awarded the IUT Poster Prize for 2015

Abstract

This article focuses on portable, hands-on experiments in geotechnical engineering that serve as an entry point into the tutorials in Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering at the University of Innsbruck. Ten small portable geotechnical experiments were developed to demonstrate geo-mechanical relations during class in a clear and comprehensible way. To determine the degree of student acceptance and possible learning benefits, the experiments were evaluated with a questionnaire. This evaluation showed that experiments in geo-mechanical engineering were well received and are appropriate visualization tools. The experiments were highly appreciated by the students, who reported that they helped to make the course material more comprehensible and clear.

Keywords: student engagement, STEM education, active learning

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Small Steps over Time: Energizing Students by Infusing Innovative Practices into Universities within a Transitional Country

Judy S. Richardson, Language Center, South Eastern European University, Macedonia, and Virginia Commonwealth University, USA

Abstract

Innovation energizes instruction, transcending a lecture-only and often boring approach to learning. But when students and professors are entrenched in a professor-centered system, how can change be accomplished? This paper explains, via examples and stories, practices university students have identified that energize their learning process. These practices are greatly effective but not difficult for professors to implement, if blended into a traditional model. The study, conducted in English Foreign Language methods courses, is mostly qualitative with quantitative aspects. For a country in transition, faced with many new regulations, small steps over time can make a difference in fostering student engagement.

Keywords: active learning, student engagement, teaching writing, ESL students

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Margins for Flexibility and Zones of Evolution in Transition: Exploring Students’ Conceptions and Experiences of HE Learning

Christine Smith, Quality Enhancement: University Campus Suffolk, UK

Abstract

This paper reports on a study of first year students’ conceptions and experiences of higher education (hereafter HE) and student engagement, linked to the transition from the secondary to the post-secondary learning environment. Facets of student engagement provide a thematic frame for analysis: active learning; academic challenge; staff–student interactions; enriching educational experiences; supportive learning environments; and work–integrated learning. Two findings are highlighted. The first suggests the need for margins of flexibility in transition: aligned to individual student needs, recognizing the diversity of students’ prior academic and life experiences, and by consequence their capacity for independent learning. The second finding emphasizes zones of evolution in transition, that students see engagement as a professionally–oriented construct, in their “becoming” within the disciplinary field and from the outset of their HE study.

Keywords: student engagement, active learning, faculty-student relations

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