This research paper provides a case study of experiences of engineering faculty members at a large public university in Ireland working together to transform their teaching methods. We conducted this study to identify essential characteristics of their recognizable shift from teacher- to student-centered pedagogies. Here, we investigate eight teachers’ experiences of a faculty-led learning community designed to help individuals transform their courses. This small collection of faculty met regularly to discuss ways to facilitate and assess students working in groups. Outside the group’s formal meetings, participants brought important issues to the forefront of discussion with colleagues. Participation in the learning group encouraged, supported, and helped sustain change. They took the lead in advocating for change across their school, and spearheaded the program-wide change evident today. Now, every student in the Bachelor of Engineering program experiences student-centered learning (SCL) pedagogies including group- and problem-based learning (PBL) and this group’s contributions provide a cornerstone for the B. Eng. program.
To understand how key players experienced and achieved change, we conducted in-depth semi-structured interviews with individual faculty members. We used a ground theory approach along with template analysis to study interview transcripts. We examined experiences of those most active in the learning group—as well as those who contributed to the effort but were not part of the formal learning group. We probed issues and challenges they faced and the affect this learning group had on them as engineering educators. All members described having an active champion, an experienced and informed advisor, various forms of institutional support, and a group of colleagues interested in discussing pedagogy and implementing new approaches. From this, we distilled a model for encouraging transformation that holds promise for use elsewhere.
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