n Journal of the South African Institution of Civil Engineering = Joernaal van die Suid-Afrikaanse Instituut van Siviele Ingenieurswese - A study of the thinking styles and academic performance of civil engineering students : technical paper

Volume 44, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1021-2019



A worldwide industry-led paradigm shift is taking place in engineering education. Feedback from industry indicates that success in the working environment is related to 'non-technical or soft skills' such as communication and interpersonal skills. Engineering education needs a bias correction from a historical focus on technical training. These 'non-technical' skills are mostly associated with the right hemisphere of the well-known left/right brain model. <p>The Department of Civil and Biosystems Engineering of the University of Pretoria used the well-calibrated four quadrant whole brain theory and model developed by Ned Herrmann to measure the thinking preferences of first year civil engineering students. The study covered information gathered from student intakes in the period 1999-2001. The survey was also carried out among lecturing staff. The results confirmed a predominantly left brain bias among students and lecturing staff. Students' academic records were then correlated with their thinking preferences and this confirmed that right brain dominant students tend to perform academically below average and less well than left brain dominant students. The implications of the results are discussed with regard to curriculum changes, lecturing style and implications of admission criteria, as well as the needs expressed by industry for the incorporation of 'non-technical or softer skills'.

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