University of Strathclyde



This case study presents evidence from an initiative employing a weekly industry magazine - New Civil Engineer (NCE) - as a vehicle for introducing construction technology to first year students (N=153).

Using one or more hard copy editions of the magazine (from inaugural edition in 1972 onward) available in the university library, and following guidance regarding the definition of construction technology, the students were required to select six technological themes from any section (news, projects, adverts, etc.) of the NCE magazine.

Students were required to produce six drawings/sketches on either A3 or A4 paper and annotate each sketch and provide further notes indicating evidence of further research (i.e. consultation with text books/scholarly journals/ manufacturer’s websites etc.)


Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering 

Faculty of Engineering

Contact Details

Dr Michael Murray




The coursework constituted a 15% weighting for a 20 credit module (CL120 Construction and the Environment) as ‘assessment for learning’ (AfL) to support and promote learning (see McDowell, 2014).

The complex character of the construction industry together with global business pressures, regulatory demands and increasing client expectations require highly educated and skilled civil engineering graduates. Consequently, sound knowledge and meaningful understanding of construction technology, ‘its means and methods’ is fundamental to the performance requirements of a civil engineer.

Unlike alternative academic programmes such as mathematics, the science disciplines (physics, chemistry and biology) and languages, the subject of civil engineering and by extension construction technology are largely absent from secondary education. As a result, the majority of first year undergraduates enrolling on civil engineering programmes exhibit little or no basic appreciation of construction technology. This absence of prior knowledge and understanding raises unique challenges for first year undergraduate students and construction technology lecturers alike.

There appears scant evidence to suggest that the NCE is used by civil engineering academics for pedagogical impact. However, the lead author has advocated its use to students for some years. Moreover, the magazine regularly features reports on regional projects where UOS students have attended site visits ([i.e. Rosyth Docks Refurbishment; M74 JV; Forth Replacement Crossing). These site visits combined with targeted reading, arguably help the students to establish an affinity with civil engineering within their local community.

  • McDowell L (2014) Assessment for Learning, Chapter 6, In: Lynn Clouder, Christine Broughan, Steve Jewell and Graham Steventon (Edits) Improving student engagement and development through assessment, Special Indian Edition, India, Routledge, India, pp 73-85


Please see below for a link to a full account of the case study.

In response to whether reading the NCE had confirmed their intentions to become a civil engineer, 112 students (73%) agreed/ strongly agreed.

142 students (93%) agreed/ strongly agreed that the NCE was interesting reading material.

107 students (70%) of students agreed / strongly agreed that the NCE was inspirational.

  • Finding out about common technologies such as piling and underpinning made me feel as if I was actually learning something really useful. It's information that will help me understand exactly how engineering projects work. I feel more like an engineer now.
  • This coursework was very useful, it has introduced me to construction technologies that I never knew before and has created an interest for me to keep an eye out for more construction technology the next time I read the NCE.
  • I was fascinated by the scale of the project. I would have definitely loved to work on such a project. I was impressed by the construction technologies. Now I see the point of that NCE Construction Technology assignment.
  • The coursework was helpful as it encouraged me to read NCE magazines. I am now more interested in reading them in my spare time as I have realised how helpful they can be for my general knowledge of the civil engineering industry.

Lessons Learnt

Using industry / trade magazines can assist freshers to become familiar (i.e new language and terminology)  with the industry sector related to their degree studies. Whilst such magazines are not considered ‘scholarly’ and may only provide anecdotes they are immediately accessible to students in that they can demonstrate industrial relevance and provide inspirational case studies and role models for students.


In this case the students has a biased understanding of what constituted ‘construction technology’ and had  a propensity to sketch mechanical construction plant / tools rather than seek out case study project articles that contained descriptions of designed elements of building / structures. Whilst this demonstrated elements of a strategic learning approach, the intended legacy that would see the students consult the magaxine throughout their studies appears to be on target.


No scalability issues. This was an individual coursework.

Suggestions for Transferability

The trade magazine employed in this case study is affiliated to the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) and other academic subjects will have similar type publications reporting on current affairs related to a course of study. They can be used as a coursework (individual or group) to introduce a variety of topics (i.e ethics, graduate career profiles etc).

These magazines provide a backcloth of industry knowledge (as opposed to scholarly journals) that can help students familiarise themselves with contemporary practice. This knowledge is very helpful when students attend placement / job  interviews and they can show employers that they are interested and have an awareness of their chosen industry. The job advertisements in these magazines can be used with students to examine graduate skills / knowledge / attributes.


Murray M and Tennant S (2014) New Civil Engineer: Introducing Undergraduate Civil Engineers to Construction Technology, Engineering Education, 9 (1): 33-47.


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