You are here:

Situated learning methodologies and assessment in civil engineering structures education

, Georgia Institute of Technology, United States

Georgia Institute of Technology . Awarded


This thesis describes an overarching study of civil engineering undergraduate structural education through student performance in recalling and applying basic structural engineering knowledge, and the viability of alternative situated learning environments for more effectively supporting the learning of this knowledge. To properly ground this study, a thorough investigation of related work in assessment, cognitive science, educational technology, and design education was completed, with connections and applications to civil engineering education highlighted. The experimental work of the thesis is organized into three parts: an assessment of civil engineering undergraduates' fundamental structural engineering knowledge and abilities; the development and testing of a software support environment for situated learning, the Civil Engineering Learning Library (CELL); and, the implementation and evaluation of the design studio, a pedagogical model for situated learning in the classroom. The results of the assessment study indicate that civil engineering seniors (and also students earlier in the curriculum) have difficulty retaining and applying basic knowledge of structural behavior, especially doing so in a flexible fashion in design situations. The survey also suggests that visualization plays an important role in understanding structural behavior. Tests with the CELL system show that a cognitively-flexible multimedia environment can support structural learning, but were inconclusive about whether the computer-based system helped the students to learn better than conventional classroom lecture. Two trial implementations of the design studio indicate that the studio model can serve as a powerful situated learning environment, and that it can be scaled up to reasonable class sizes. Significant requirements are associated with this model, however, primarily in faculty involvement, but also in physical resources and student time. In addition to these conclusions about the specific research efforts of this thesis, other more general observations of the difficulty of educational research (and particularly assessment) are discussed, especially in measuring the long-term effects of the desired learning influence. Finally, suggestions for improving these studies are offered, both for software environments and implementing other design studios, along with implications for future work.


Bertz, M.D. Situated learning methodologies and assessment in civil engineering structures education. Ph.D. thesis, Georgia Institute of Technology. Retrieved July 22, 2021 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

For copies of dissertations and theses: (800) 521-0600/(734) 761-4700 or