Faculty serve as arbiters of disciplinary knowledge who, through the engineering curriculum, translate and deliver to engineering students the knowledge and skills necessitated by engineering industry. Through pedagogical practices, assessment strategies, and course content, faculty are inherently communicating to students what are considered to be important skills and knowledge in engineering. These skills tend to be skewed toward many of the technical competencies, which are well-defined and easily conceptualized within a course, thus placing an emphasis on technical competencies for emerging engineers. However, professional skills such as leadership are often ill-defined, complex, and misunderstood, leaving many faculty to place less of an emphasis on leadership development in their course and inherently, to students entering the field of engineering. This relationship may point to a reason why research consistently shows that engineering students lack necessary leadership skills to succeed in industry. To enhance student leadership development within the engineering curriculum, the construct of leadership must become well defined and communicated and faculty conceptualizations of leadership must be identified.
The study is a part of a larger multi-institutional, mixed methods research project examining the definition of leadership from the perspectives of industry, faculty and students in order to identify common and misconceptions. In this paper, we seek to gain an initial understanding of the intersections of faculty knowledge and value of engineering leadership by asking the overarching research question: How do faculty come to know leadership within engineering education? As part of a larger study exploring definitions of leadership across students, faculty, and industry professionals, the results from this analysis - as well as findings that warrant further inquiry - will be used to develop a semi-structured interview protocol to guide faculty interviews in subsequent phases of the larger project. Specifically, the survey items probe their ways of knowing and awareness of the value employers place on leadership, when leadership should be taught to students, and how leadership should be assessed in a course. Faculty perception of the value employers place on leadership is compared against survey results from employers. The analysis reveals more questions than answers. While an initial profile of faculty perceptions of leadership could be identified from the data, few patterns emerged that could serve as relational indicators across dimensions, revealing nuance among items that warrant further exploration. Subsequent interviews, as informed by this preliminary study, will further explore topics such as perceptions of faculty role in teaching leadership and effective sources of faculty leadership education and development; and contribute to ongoing conversations surrounding faculty beliefs and pedagogical content and practice.
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