Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering

First Advisor

Loren Zachary

Second Advisor

Russell Walters


The purpose of this study was to investigate if a Problem/Project-Based Learning (PBL) approach can affect certain non-technical, "soft" skills of construction engineers. Such skills include leadership, adaptability, and stress management. In mixed design research, quantitative and qualitative data are assembled and analyzed collectively. For this study, two separate assessment tools were used for the quantitative portion, while open-ended written reflections and a partially closed-ended senior questionnaire were implemented for the qualitative portion.

A hypothetical model was used to investigate certain soft skills based on prior research documenting need. Skills investigated were confidence, stress coping, leadership, communication skills, adaptability, and management skills. Descriptive statistics, open-ended final written reflections, and a partially closed-ended senior questionnaire were used to analyze the data.

PBL is a process in which the students are challenged to develop realistic solutions on open, less structured, real world type problems. The results of this study performed with the combined count of nearly 60 students suggest that PBL can influence several soft skills of senior construction engineers. Specifically, these findings demonstrate the following: (a) PBL appears to affect students' soft skills; (b) students appear to recognize the realism and "real world" applicability that PBL brings to their skill development; and (c) the data suggest that the experience is holistic and offers opportunities for balanced growth in several ways. Some key competencies such as communication and leadership indicated significant enhancements. Although this study was limited to one academic year of the university's construction engineering program, it provides interesting insight to changes within the time period investigated.

This study should be replicated in other construction engineering environments to investigate a larger population sample. In addition, industry, professional consultants, and academic entities are encouraged to review current learning methods to ensure that they are implementing the findings and methodology offered in this study.


Copyright Owner

Todd L. Sirotiak



Date Available


File Format


File Size

193 pages