A compulsory book reading coursework for all 1st year civil engineers. Each year, the freshers are required to read one book from four that have been selected by the tutor (see the attached document for the 24 books used since the 2009-10 session).
The books selected for reading are chosen on the basis that they provide knowledge about the history and heritage of civil engineering including biographical text and / or contemporary accounts of inspirational civil engineering projects.
A department book club was established to run in parallel with the coursework and throughout the academic session so as to encourage students to discuss their book reading with peers, and to provide a platform to invite book authors to the department.
Book Club meetings to date have been:
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Faculty of Engineering
Dr Michael Murray
This initiative contributes a 15% weighting to a 20 credit module (CL120 Construction & the Environment) as ‘assessment for learning’ (AfL) to support and promote learning (1).
As a means to help 1st year students develop an interest in their chosen subject the book reading coursework also emphasizes the responsibility of the learner in constructing knowledge. The book titles made available for selection are chosen in the belief that they will motivate and interest the students, ‘supporting them in the intellectual work necessary to come to terms with new ideas and information, rather than spoon-feeding them with knowledge which they passively absorb’ (2).
The book club was established to support the coursework through the facilitation of an informal environment whereby the students have an opportunity to discuss their book reading with peers / book authors. The principal objective is to help the students improve their oral communication and self-confidence skills.
(1) 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, pp73-85
(2) Fairbairn, G.J and Fairbairn, S.A (2001) Reading at University: A Guide for Students, Maidenhead, Open University Press
The students complete a Likert questionnaire. Please see the attached documents for student feedback.
Likert questionnaire results based on 2012-2015 sessions (N=221)
193 (87%) students agreed / strongly agreed that the book they had read was inspirational.
187 (85%) students agreed / strongly agreed that reading their book helped confirm their intentions to become a civil engineer?
182(82%) agreed / strongly agreed that they would recommend their book to new 1st years starting the following year.
Each year, around 10% of the student cohort express a severe dislike for this coursework. Thankfully, for those who selected books that can inspire them, they are often surprised at how enjoyable reading can be.
Engineering students will tend to require a little bit of persuasion to take on board that the coursework can have a lasting legacy and is not simply an assessment to ‘get through’. For the small number of students each year that could be described as ‘bookworms’, anecdotal evidence suggests that they reflect households where reading is considered a pleasurable pursuit.
Consider the word count in the books selected for reading. I have resisted including David McCullochs 612 page The Great Bridge: The Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge as this may just be a bridge too far for some students!
Book club events seem to work best where some refreshments are on offer. The celebration of Gustave Eiffel with guest author David Harvie, reading from his book, Eiffel, the Genius Who Reinvented Himself, went down very well. We had French pastries / wine / music and a French colleague reading in his native tongue from another book about Eiffel.
Average class size circa (N=80). No scalability issues
Common book reading initiatives are used at universities (particularly in the USA) around the world. Whilst this initiative differs in scope the aims are similar.
Module reading lists that contain ‘essential’ books that provide students with prescriptive knowledge are unlikely to excite and inspire them to reflect on why they are learning. Providing students with an opportunity to read ‘around’ their chosen topic has the potential to encourage students to question and confront accepted theory and practice. Encouraging students to engage in more widespread reading will help promote a life long learning approach to their studies.
Reading For your Degree Webpage @ https://www.strath.ac.uk/engineering/civilenvironmentalengineering/studywithus/undergraduate/readingforcivilengineers/
Attached Document : MM Book-Reading-Comments 2009-15
Attached Document: MM 1st year Book Reading 2012-15 Likert