ERIC Number: ED458087
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1998-Aug
Experiences with Teaching Basic Statistics in an Introduction to Civil Engineering Class.
Craddock, James N.
Following a widespread national trend, in 1996, a new two-credit hour course titled "Introduction to Civil Engineering" was introduced at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIUC). The class has a one-hour lecture per week, and a two-hour lab or small group session. One reason for the introduction of this class was to provide earlier contact with the students in the civil engineering (CE) major in an effort to reduce the number of students who change their major before they take a civil engineering class. Additional reasons for the introduction of this class were to provide training in the use of computer programs that the students will use in subsequent classes, and to provide a design experience early in the student's program of study, thereby, helping to integrate the engineering design experience throughout the curriculum. The final reason for this class is to introduce students to some basic concepts of statistics. These last three reasons are based on Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) suggestions to integrate design, computer usage, and statistics throughout the civil engineering curriculum. The topics of the lectures include the following: A discussion of the profession of engineering; sub-fields of civil engineering (i.e., structures, environmental, etc.); engineering ethics and professionalism; the engineering design process; written and oral communication skills; and introduction to statistics. This paper will focus on the experiences of the author with the last topic: Introduction to Statistics. Very basic statistical concepts were covered. About 6 class hours were devoted to the subject. Professionally prepared instructional videotapes were used. Some homework was assigned. The topics covered included measures of center (mode, mean, median), histograms, normal distributions, standardized curves, and linear regression. Student performance was measured by the homework grades, and student attitudes and opinions were measured by a questionnaire prepared by the author. The results are interesting. As might be expected, students found the topic to be of little interest. Student performance depended on their math backgrounds. The students were taking Math classes such as College Algebra, Trigonometry, and Calculus. As is expected, students in the higher level classes performed better. The material covered did not require the knowledge or use of Calculus, however. The conclusions of this work are that it is difficult to get engineering students to be interested in statistics, especially at the freshman level. One major difficulty with teaching this topic in a freshman class is the disparate math skills. The typical first semester engineering student is often not taking Calculus I as they did in the past. The implications of this fact are far ranging. The traditional eight-semester curriculum is predicated on taking Calculus very early in the program. If many students are not taking Calculus I until the second or third semester of their academic careers; the structure of freshman-level introductory courses needs to be carefully considered. (Author/YDS)
Descriptors: Civil Engineering, Course Descriptions, Higher Education, Mathematics Education, Statistics
For full text: http://www.ctc.pur-rio.br/icee-98/Icee/Index.htm.
Publication Type: Numerical/Quantitative Data; Reports - Descriptive; Speeches/Meeting Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Note: Paper presented at the International Conference on Engineering Education (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 17-20, 1998). Figures may not reproduce well.