Investigating undergraduate student perceptions of engineering judgment

Carkin, Ryan, P
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Other Contributors
Abdoun, Tarek
Lander, Daniel
Zastavker, Yevgeniya, V
Bennett, Victoria
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Civil engineering
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This electronic version is a licensed copy owned by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), Troy, NY. Copyright of original work retained by author.
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Engineering judgment remains an elusive concept with many varying interpretations and descriptions. However, while there is no consensus on an explicit definition, there is agreement among researchers and practicing engineers alike that it is a vital skill for the field of civil engineering. Engineers, as a broad profession, are required to make judgment calls in their day to day work. In the case of civil engineers specifically, their decisions affect the infrastructure society relies on. As a result, their judgments are critical, because any mistake can directly result in a lower standard of living for the masses: Clean water, effective transportation, and safe structures are just the tip of the iceberg for services civil engineers provide. This judgment skill begins developing during the education and training undergraduates receive before entering the workforce. As a result, undergraduates’ perceptions of engineering judgment is an area of interest. Educators can employ numerous learning strategies, but ultimately the student’s takeaways are what matter. To analyze student perceptions on engineering judgment, this work employs a qualitative study utilizing the constant comparative method and documents the findings through a thematic analysis. Once this initial analysis was complete, the emergent themes were compared to existing literature to further the investigation and identify areas of interest. The emergent themes of multi-factored decision making and collaboration lead to the generation of hypotheses for future analysis of student development, as well as improved teaching strategies to better support the development of engineering judgement in undergraduate education.
School of Engineering
Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY
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