Introduction to Transportation Engineering is a core undergraduate civil engineering course that covers the fundamentals of design and operation of roadways. The topic of this course is unique since all students have existing personal experience with transportation systems, which is not often the case for other core civil engineering courses. For this reason, transportation engineering is especially well suited for active or inquiry-based learning. However, this advantage is rarely leveraged in the education of transportation engineering topics.
This paper reflects a work-in-progress of a study on the implementation of inquiry-based learning in a junior-level introduction to transportation engineering course. The goal is to teach a module that will introduce the operation of traffic signals to students using inquiry-based learning. As a part of this work, a new class session focusing on demonstrating the impacts of signals installed at intersections and their impacts on traffic operations was developed. The beginning of the class session was used to present students with several real-world case study situations of traffic operations at signalized intersections under different scenarios. These case studies were presented using real-time video footage of intersections in [the university’s town] that is available through the state’s online traveler information system. Video cameras are installed along a major arterial in [the university’s town]. During these modules, students were presented with the objectives of the class along with captured videos from traffic cameras at a few intersections. The students were given a short introduction and were then provided with some guiding questions to explore. The video captures were carefully curated such that the questions could be answered based on the different situations that arise in each video. The students used in-time class to observe the videos, and lead discussions in small groups on their observations along with their answers to the guiding questions. Then, a classroom discussion took place led by the instructor to reinforce the ideas.
In order to assess the impact of the inquiry-based learning module, a short post-survey was used. The post-survey evaluated the knowledge of the students on signalized intersections, along with students’ overall satisfaction with and assessment of this module. The feedback indicated that the students were satisfied with the way the class was taught and that the method of instruction kept them engaged and focused. This feedback will be used to improve the instructional material and exercises for future offerings of this class.
This method will be continue to be developed over the next few offerings of the course, and tests on how well this method can be used for other topics in transportation engineering courses will be conducted. Additionally, a more thorough evaluation of the effectiveness of the proposed methodology will be conducted in the future offerings of this course. Based on the results of this work, ways of using inquiry-based learning in transportation engineering courses, along with other courses in civil engineering will be identified.
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