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Improvement of students problem-solving skills through project execution planning in civil engineering and construction management education

Jingxiao Zhang (School of Economics and Management, Chang’an University, Xi’an, China)
Haiyan Xie (Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, USA)
Hui Li (School of Civil Engineering, Chang’an University, Xi’an, China)

Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management

ISSN: 0969-9988

Article publication date: 10 July 2019

Issue publication date: 2 August 2019




The purpose of this paper is to improve students’ problem-solving skills in civil engineering and construction management education.


The design includes structured role-playing as a pedagogical method in 21 project teams with a total of 82 undergraduate students at Chang’an University, China, in a nine-week Building Information Modeling (BIM) capstone course. The methodology is a teaching–learning experiment in a civil engineering education program with a detailed description of the empirical case and assessment instruments. The approach is to train project execution planning in a capstone course by role-playing with a real-world project using the procedures of the BIM Project Execution Planning Guide (PEPG) and process mapping.


The study finds that students can significantly improve their problem-solving skills through planning and role-specific communication during projects.

Research limitations/implications

The research sample needs to be expanded from senior-level undergraduate students to consider the different backgrounds and motivations of students.

Practical implications

This pedagogy is helpful to educators who are interested in group learning with a real-world project; the procedures of BIM PEPG; self-chosen responsibilities within a capstone course time framework; raising the awareness of the importance of planning; information exchange; and team cooperation.


This paper fulfills an identified need to study how role-playing in information and technology rich environments can be structured.



This research is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 71301013); Humanity and Social Science Program Foundation of the Ministry of Education of China (No. 17YJA790091); List of Key Science and Technology Projects in China’s Transportation Industry in 2018-International Science and Technology Cooperation Project (No. 2018-01639); Shaanxi Social Science Fund (No. 2017S004 and No. 2016ZB017); Shaanxi Province Social Sciences Major Theoretical and Practical Research Fund (No. 2019Z191 and No. 2017Z028); Xi’an Social Science Fund (No. 18J139); Xi’an Construction Science and Technology Planning Project (No. SJW201705); Xi’an Science Technology Bureau Fund (No. 201805070RK1SF4(6)); Shaanxi Universities Second Batch of Youth Outstanding Talents Support Projects (No. [2018]111); Shaanxi Province Higher Education Teaching Reform Project (No. 17BZ017); Education Funding of Master of Engineering Management in China (No. 2017-ZX-004); Shaanxi Province Civil Engineering “first-class professional” project (No. 300103292804 and No. 300103282803); Special Fund for Graduate Student Education Reform of Central College, Chang’an University (No. 300103190413, No. 300103190018, No. 300103190943, No. 300111002005, No. 300103187091, No. 310623176201, No. 310623176702, No. 310628176702 and No. 310628161406); Fundamental Research for Education Reform of Central College, Chang’an University (No. 300104292305, No. 300104292304, No. 300104292308, No. 300103292806, No. 300104282301, No. 300104282318, No. 300104282323, No. 310623172904, No. 310623171003 and No. 310623171633); Fundamental Research for Funds for the Central Universities (Humanities and Social Sciences), Chang’an University (No. 300102239616); Fundamental Research for Funds for the Central Universities, Chang’an University (No. 300102238201).


Zhang, J., Xie, H. and Li, H. (2019), "Improvement of students problem-solving skills through project execution planning in civil engineering and construction management education", Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management, Vol. 26 No. 7, pp. 1437-1454.



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