A coursework assessment contributing 15% weighting towards a 20 credit module (CL120 Construction & the Environment). The coursework constitutes an ‘assessment for learning’ (AfL) to support and promote learning (see McDowell, 2014).
Fresher civil engineers are most likely to enrol at university with a relatively narrow understanding of their chosen career path. The provision of scholarly research and writing activities in connection with the history of the ICE can help to develop a student’s anticipatory socialisation of the civil engineering profession.
Sir Isaac Newton’s 17th century dictum –‘if I have seen further it is by standing on ye shoulders of giants’ finds no better home than when associated with the 150 distinguished Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) Presidents who have held office since Thomas Telford’s investiture in 1820. The inaugural addresses of the presidents constitute a living history that charts the scientific and technological innovations in civil engineering over the past 194 years. These transcripts provide a longitudinal body of historical engineering knowledge that illuminates past achievements whilst offering the potential to inspire today’s engineers. They allow the reader to gain a unique understanding of the purpose and history of the ICE.
Results can be found in the published output (please see below).
The results reveal that the ICE addresses helped disclose the real world of civil engineering and provided the students with a ‘broad and deep’ knowledge of their chosen profession.
A content analysis of the student address titles (n=428) shows a propensity for ‘the future’ (n=127) with a dominant paly to global, environmental and infrastructure issues. A common theme in the student addresses (and reflecting contemporary concerns by many commentators) was that career advisors in schools need more assistance to promote civil engineering as a possible course of study and future career.
Selected verbatim from two of the “I’m the Strathclyde Student President of the ICE “competition (see attached document) winners:-
I felt fortunate to be chosen as one of the candidates for the Strathclyde Student President of the ICE. It was a huge surprise to be selected as the winner and I am grateful for being given the opportunity to deliver my speech. I have always been nervous about presenting in front of large crowds and this opportunity has helped me gain confidence in doing so. Meeting Prof. Barry Clarke was a big honour and he had some invaluable advice to give to each of us. If any students next year have the chance to do this project, I would recommend that they should certainly do it. (Megan Greig, 2012 )
Writing and presenting my Student ICE speech gave me a greater insight into the workings of the Institution and the role it plays in progressing civil engineering. Reflecting on the speeches of past Presidents, I was able to take inspiration from their way of thinking in order to create a realistic vision, as the institution progresses towards 2050. The thought of presenting in front of such a large audience appeared a daunting prospect, however it was extremely enjoyable and improved my confidence with public speaking. (Aaron Wyllie, 2015)
I made the ICE president addresses (n=150) available to the students by placing these in my ‘L’ drive folder. Whilst the UOS library provides electronic access to the ICE Proceedings (starting around the mid 19th century) I found my own search to retrieve all of the addresses was often problematic. Whilst our first-year students are encouraged to familiarise themselves with electronic resources I felt that the provision of all the addresses in one location would encourage browsing and prevent potential discouragement and stress related to the amount of time they were prepared to devote to this coursework.
Whilst the coursework assesses the students ability to research and prepare a piece of structured writing (and demonstrate imaginative, creative and innovative thinking) the five students with the top grades are also given the opportunity to engage in public speaking amongst peers. Whilst all of our students have this opportunity (4th year dissertation poster talk is compulsory) during their course of study it would be preferable if more time was made available to allow first- year students to engage in this activity.
One solution could be that each student presents an abridged version of their address to a small number of peers in an informal focus group type scenario. This could be undertaken with several groups in parallel and it may be possible to encourage the students to provide a constructive critique of each presentation to encourage reflective learning.
No significant challenges other than the time required to gather together all of the addresses. This also involved contacting the ICE library for some addresses that were only available in a hard copy format and notifying the ICE librarian of the electronic copies that were missing pages to enable these to be replaced.
This is an individual coursework with an average of (n=85) students each year. Marking the coursework is enjoyable given that the students are adding a personal perspective and 10-20% of the student addresses can be considered to be inspirational.
This coursework could be replicated in any vocational oriented course where a professional institution has relevance to the students career.
Murray, M and Tennant, S (2016) Standing on ye Shoulders of Giants: promoting a social systems engineering education using ICE President Addresses (1820 - 2014).Civil Engineering and Environmental Systems.
DOI: 10.1080/10286608.2016.1233400. (Published online 20/09/2016).