Action Research to Enhance Student Engagement in Geotechnical Engineering

  • Maria FerentinouEmail author
  • Zach Simpson
Conference paper


In recent decades, much attention has been given to students’ classroom participation, with many academicians and institutions arguing that the traditional lecture format is no longer conducive to student learning in higher education. This has prompted much investigation into alternative methods of teaching, including online learning, and others. This research takes places in a large university in Johannesburg, South Africa, where student exam results, as well as feedback obtained through teaching and module evaluations, indicate that undergraduate students lacked interest in geotechnical engineering and felt that course content was poorly communicated. In order to address problems of teaching and learning, this study applies an action research methodology aimed at enhancing student engagement in geotechnical engineering study. Action research is a cyclical approach to research, in which a series of interventions are designed, implemented and assessed, before being re-designed. Generally, a number of such iterations are undertaken. In this study, these interventions were aimed at improving teaching practice, enhancing student satisfaction, instilling confidence within the students, and improving the teaching and learning experience for both the lecturer and students. The interventions designed include: in-class participation, interactive lecturing, strategies to relate current learning to future practice, increased use of software applications, and weekly quizzes. The interventions were assessed through student surveys, teaching evaluations, and the lecturer’s personal reflection journal. In this paper, the results of the first iteration of this action research are presented, wherein the preliminary results are encouraging regarding increased student engagement in geotechnical engineering study.


Engineering education Action research Student engagement Geotechnical engineering study 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Engineering and the Built EnvironmentUniversity of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa

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