Methods to assist in teaching planning and scheduling

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Methods to Assist in Teaching Planning and Scheduling
Kris G. Mattila, Ph.D., P.E. Visiting Professor, USAFA, CO Michigan Technological University Houghton, Michigan James B. Pocock, Ph.D., R.A. Patrick C. Suermann, Captain, USAF United States Air Force Academy, Colorado

Many students struggle with the concepts of planning and scheduling when first introduced to it. This struggle extends fromthe introduction of work breakdown structure to network logic through the meaning of critical activities and continuing with other planning and scheduling topics. This paper explains methods used in Civil Engineering construction courses to assist students in understanding scheduling concepts. The basis for explaining these concepts is the student’s schedule of classes that comprise therequirements of their Civil Engineering degree. The technique of using material that students are familiar with to explain something new is a recognized educational theory. Key Words: Education, Construction, Planning, Scheduling Introduction The topic of planning and scheduling is difficult to understand for some students who are studying construction. This is particularly true for students withoutconstruction experience as they try to understand the relationships of construction activities. Further, the use of alphabetic characters to represent activities, such as, ”Activity C follows Activity B and precedes Activity D”, while providing a mechanism to teach the topic of planning and scheduling does not provide a basis for true understanding of the material. This paper presents methods to assistin teaching planning and scheduling using something that students are familiar with: their academic schedule of classes required for their particular degree. This paper uses a Civil Engineering curriculum to illustrate examples; however it could be any curriculum where the topic of planning and scheduling is taught. The methods presented in this paper can easily be adapted to various coursesdepending on the preferences of the individual teaching the course. These methods range from simple ones that can easily be incorporated into an existing lecture to methods that can be the basis of a project. The importance of planning and scheduling in construction cannot be overestimated. The US Department of Labor, Bureau of Statistics, includes an industry definition of a Construction Manager (CM)that states they will “…typically schedule and coordinate all design and construction processes…” (USDL, 2005). In a study entitled “What does a Construction Manager really do?” performed by the Construction Management Association of America, it was found that one of the most important general areas “… was time management, in which CMs reported their most important function is to develop aconstruction schedule, followed by developing and managing a critical path schedule for the job…” (CMAA, 2005). Glavinich (2004) answers the question, “Why Schedule the Construction Project?” with the following: to communicate the construction plan, establish production goals, monitor and establish progress, and to manage change. ABET, the accreditation commission for engineering programs, does notinclude a requirement for planning and scheduling in the Program Criteria for Civil Engineering (ABET, 2004). However, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) in their Body of Knowledge expansion of the ABET outcomes for Civil Engineering Programs suggest in the commentary of Outcome 13 that an important element is planning and scheduling (ASCE, 2004). For Construction Engineering programs, ABEThas a requirement for understanding planning and scheduling (ABET, 2004). The American Council for Construction Education in the criteria for accreditation of baccalaureate construction degree programs, as part of the required fundamental construction topics, includes planning and scheduling (ACCE, 2004). From this it is evident that students interested in studying construction will have...
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