It is widely known that nearly 50% of engineering students either switch majors or drop out within the first couple of semesters upon enrollment. Research has revealed that a combination of poor teaching and mentoring, difficulty of the curriculum, and lack of belonging are among the reasons for high attrition.

Over the years, educators have developed a wide range of techniques to address the attrition issues mentioned above. There have been many teaching and learning centers established across campuses to improve pedagogies to help enhance student learning. In addition, freshman and sophomore curricula have been revamped to incorporate more design projects, problem-based learning (PBL), etc. Better mentoring and engaging students in engineering activities and research have also helped students feel they belong in engineering.

All along, one of the challenges has been to introduce new courses and additional units in an already jam-packed curriculum. The authors have been incorporating failure case studies as an integral component of existing engineering and construction management courses to provide students a better insight regarding their chosen field and future profession. Student groups form forensic engineering or consulting companies; investigate technical and ethical aspects of a prominent engineering or construction failure; prepare technical reports, and deliver PowerPoint slide presentations in class. Myriad assessments have revealed that students become more conscientious about the subject at hand; working in teams gives them the feeling of belonging; a closer interaction is established between the instructor and students, and students gain a better perspective of real life projects. In addition, the venue provides an opportunity to teach ethics via case studies. The details of case studies, on failure to enhance student learning and retention and inculcating professional ethics as part of these case studies, will constitute the crux of our paper.


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