Academic journal article Technology and Engineering Teacher

Teaching Construction: A Design-Based Course Model

Academic journal article Technology and Engineering Teacher

Teaching Construction: A Design-Based Course Model

Article excerpt

"Students must understand that construction has evolved into a high-tech industry that relies upon design and STEM skills for equipment and logistics management as opposed to the performance of labor-intensive tasks.

The focus on construction in T&E education has drastically changed. This article presents a series of topics and design-based labs that can be taught at various grade levels to integrate STEM concepts while also increasing students' overall awareness of construction and structural technologies.


Construction is an important field of study within technology and engineering (T&E) education as reflected by its designation as one of the 20 Standards for Technological Literacy content standards {STL) (ITEA/ITEEA, 2000/2002/2007). Despite its importance, it is often relegated to nothing more than a single unit within today's T&E education courses, such as Foundations of Technology (FoT). This is a drastic shift from the foci of foundational T&E curricular documents, such as The Industrial Arts Curriculum Project (Lux, 2002) and Jackson's Mill Industrial Arts Curriculum Theory (Snyder & Hales, 1981), that identified construction as one of the main topics of study within our profession. With T&E education now concentrated on technological literacy for all, it is important to modify teaching of construction concepts to reflect this focus. For this reason, the broad overview of construction and structural technologies should be taught from a design-based approach, advocating for students to have an understanding of the construction process and corresponding science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts.


Construction technology is critical to society's infrastructure and is an important component of P-16 students' educational experience. It is one of the seven technological systems of the designed world that provides for human needs and wants and is broadly defined as, "the knowledge needed to build constructed products" (Blankenbaker, 2013, p. 30). Moreover, construction technology has played an important role in civilization and has undergone tremendous changes since the 18th century. Mathematical and scientific applications in construction have become more complex and, in turn, increased the skills required to work in the field.

During the Industrial Revolution, the size of cities grew as the amount of building and transportation construction increased (e.g., railways, canals, and paved roads). Around the mid-19th century, steam engines, machine tools, explosives, and optical surveying instruments helped to further advance construction. The addition of indoor plumbing during this time provided access to drinking water and sewage collection, which consequently resulted in more sophisticated building codes. By the 20th century, high-rise buildings and skyscrapers became more prevalent with the help of heavy equipment, power tools, and cranes. Major government construction projects were used to help stimulate the economy following the Great Depression. Large-scale suburban neighborhood projects contributed to the increasing growth of towns and cities. Toward the end of the 20th century, green and sustainable construction practices became more of a concern, placing a greater emphasis on the use of alternative energy sources for heating and cooling buildings. Green and sustainable construction practices focus on the use of inexhaustible, recyclable, and renewable resources that are now standard in most construction projects. The use of prefabrication, as well as smaller and more energy efficient modular homes has also increased. (Blankenbaker, 2013).

Current technologies being implemented include Building Information Modeling (BIM), which uses 3D software to generate virtual simulations of building plans (Figure 1). However, unlike CAD and other design software, BIM executes these functions using parametric modeling. …

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