Polytechnic University of Valencia Congress, First International Conference on Higher Education Advances

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Talk That Counts: Participation in Practicums and Student Success in Civil Engineering
Zachary Simpson, Jannes Bester

Last modified: 10-06-2015


Engineering courses across the globe include practical components generally undertaken in small groups.  This study aims to determine whether the quantity and quality of students’ participation in these group-based practicums could be correlated with their academic performance.  A first year course in Concrete Technology was selected, and groups of students were filmed as they undertook a practicum that required them to mix, test, cast and crush concrete cubes as per the guidelines of two established procedures.  Approximately four hours of film was then time-coded according to student activity.  The resulting transcripts were analysed quantitatively in terms of total time spent on specific activities, and qualitatively in terms of the nature of student engagement with those activities.  The results show that group discussion may have a greater impact on student learning than time spent on the task itself.  However, this depends on the specific nature of this talk.  Implications of the study include the fact that attention needs to be given to designing group tasks in such a way that they facilitate group interaction, and the fact that tutors and lecturers should promote group discussion and be aware of interactional dynamics that act to the detriment of student learning.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4995/HEAd15.2015.396

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