Diverse Engineering Faculty’s Perceptions and Practice of Active Learning at a Southwestern University
The complex challenges facing society require innovative engineers who are equipped with a wide set of knowledge and skills, which they integrate to create innovative solutions and processes. While a traditional lecture course may be an effective approach for efficiently disseminating content to a large number of students, these one-way exchanges from professor to students typically promote passive and superficial learning and can have a negative impact on motivation, confidence, and enthusiasm. In contrast, active learning strategies promote student engagement and thinking about what they are learning and how it integrates into their existing knowledge base. Numerous studies have demonstrated the efficacy and positive benefits of active learning strategies in development of both core knowledge and skills. The approach also has positive impacts on student affect characteristics, such as confidence and motivation. However, the efficacy is intrinsically tied to the instructor’s ability to use those strategies well, which is the focus of this study.
At a southwestern public research university, new active learning spaces were opened in a redesigned engineering building in fall 2018. To aid faculty in assimilating active learning pedagogies into their existing courses in these redesigned spaces, a college-wide initiative was developed on active learning, including a series of workshop and community of scholars in Spring and Summer 2018. The initiative aims to prepare and support faculty as they transition to teaching in a modern learning environment much different than that they are accustomed. The initiative brings an aspect of faculty development incorporating curriculum and instruction, as well as an opportunity to research both the training offered and the influence of the new spaces on the motivation and teaching of the faculty.
The engineering program at the university has slightly over 600 faculty members involved in delivering engineering courses. Within this faculty, 36.6% are professors, 19.6% are associate professors, 13.7% are assistant professors, and 29.9% are in non-tenure seeking positions. Of the engineering faculty, 17.4% are women, 25.6% Asian, 1.4% Black, 7.4% Hispanic, 1 American Indian, and 8 unknowns. Approximately, 15% or more of these faculty members have over 5 years of industry experiences.
This study attempted to explore engineering faculty’s current knowledge, perceptions and practice of active learning for diagnostic purposes. Prior to attending the faculty development program, engineering faculty invited for the program was surveyed to probe their perceptions and practice of active learning. While around 130 faculty members were invited, 84 of them (65%) responded to an online survey. Considering the diversity in engineering faculty at the university, this study attempted to explore any differences in their perceptions and use of active learning strategies by gender, tenure status (non-tenure, tenure track, and tenured), years of teaching, and culture (undergraduate education in the USA vs. non-USA). Currently content analyses on the open-ended questions are ongoing.
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper?
Visit the ASEE document repository at
for more tools and easy citations.