Free ticketed event
This workshop focuses on two broad, overarching questions:
• In engineering education, what and how do we teach—and why?
• Beyond those already knowledgeable about and interested in engineering education research, what impact does the innovative teaching and research of engineering educators have on the broader community of engineering educators?
In the field of engineering education, the past 15 years have seen remarkable movements toward professionalization, such as the emergence of engineering education doctoral programs, the successful and growing attainment of research funding, and a flagship journal that has moved toward a more rigorous research model. Although these steps have helped establish and bolster the credibility and status of engineering education research, these steps toward increased professionalization have also come at a cost. For instance, they have made the criteria for acceptance in the flagship journal less attainable for those who do not speak that disciplinary language or have colleagues who can help fill such knowledge gaps. Furthermore, making research more “rigorous” has resulted in an instrumentalization of the field. A focus on how we teach without a complementary focus on what and why we teach leads to a profession that serves as an instrument for implementing ideas that lack input from practicing and academic engineers. The future requires collaboration—engineering needs to actively redefine itself through continuous open discussions about the meaning of engineering not just the means of engineering.
Professionalization comes with other consequences. First, while professionalization builds prestige in the field, it can affect engineering students because the very people who most stand to benefit from the impacts of engineering education research are not informed: engineering educators. Those educators need to not just be aware of but also confident in applying evidence-based practices from engineering education research. Yet such educators are increasingly unlikely to read emerging engineering education research, due to multiple factors. First, this reluctance to engage stems in part from the rewards structure of most universities—specifically, lack of incentives for tenure-line faculty to invest time in teaching. Also, tenure-line and teaching-line engineering faculty may feel alienated by the professional jargon in engineering education research, which while familiar to experts within engineering education, can serve as a barrier to entry for the very people primarily responsible for educating the next generation of engineers. That jargon gap perpetuates—rather than challenges—the tendency to teach as we were taught, likely reinforcing ineffective pedagogies instead of providing viable alternatives.
Second, discussions about the meaning of engineering lack the ‘stature’ afforded by acceptance into any major engineering education journal. This is an understandable shortcoming in the academic engineering community, where the majority of engineering faculty members are not engineering education researchers.
What venues exist to explore how to address ways to broaden the scope and impact of engineering education research and to engage a broader range of engineering educators in critical conversations about what we teach—and why? It is important to acknowledge what has had some impact, such as the National Effective Teaching Institute’s excellent work in making engineering education research accessible to engineering educators, and the work of many institutional learning and teaching centers. The purpose of this workshop is to collaboratively brainstorm and identify innovative opportunities to broaden the discussions on engineering education and disseminate the content of engineering education research to the broader community of engineering educators. As a prelude, we will also question the assumptions of a broad engineering education model that assumes
• Engineering is a technical—rather than a sociotechnical—field of practice, even though technical designs are generally made by people for people and situated in actual social contexts.
• An exclusive focus on analytical thinking is a complete education, absent opportunities to engage in critical thinking about what the engineering profession has become and what it can be in the future.
• That it is acceptable if engineers are disengaged from broader social responsibilities.
Despite much spending on engineering education research, some of that research is unknown by many engineering department chairs, and even less of it is applied in the classroom (e.g., see Borrego et al., 2010). Among engineering faculty, there are wide ranges of those who apply research-based instructional strategies (Borrego et al., 2013). So how do we tackle the research dissemination problem? What barriers and opportunities exist to make broader impacts on those who teach engineers?
In this workshop, we will collaboratively brainstorm and critique action plans that help us broaden the discussions on engineering education and disseminate the content of engineering education research to the broader community of engineering educators. Although one possible action plan appears below, the focus will be to generate additional plans to emerge during the workshop via structured collaboration and brainstorming.
• Could the current “rigor” approach in the flagship journal remain but be complemented by a new thought-provoking genre that leaves readers with more questions than answers—and that raises potentially fruitful areas for future discussion and/or research? JEE has three primary acceptable genres—empirical investigations, research reviews, and guest editorials. However, the guest editorials are capped at 1,500 words. What about a fourth genre that—in accessible language—synthesizes current research in order to raise critical, under-researched issues in engineering education, an invitation for researchers of sorts, an entrance point for more engineering faculty, and a chance to steer the field in new directions?
The workshop will begin with a brief review of mechanisms that have been shown to effectively catalyze critical dialogues and substantive change in the integration of engineering education research among a broader contingent of engineering educators. After briefly describing the above sample action plan, individuals will brainstorm action plans, describe them in one-minute flash sessions, then work together in groups of 2-3 with similar ideas to develop the plans. The final hour of the workshop will feature three groups of 2-3 people each offering constructive critiques to their respective action plans. If time allows, we will elaborate on a rubric that serves as an emerging evaluation tool for evaluating such action plans.
Jon A. Leydens is Professor of Engineering Education Research (EER) in the Division of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at the Colorado School of Mines, USA. Dr. Leydens’ research and teaching interests reside at the nexus of engineering education, communication, and social justice. Through research and teaching, he is committed to identifying critical, sociotechnically relevant gaps in the engineering curriculum. His research has provided advances in four EER areas: research methods, communication, sustainable community development, and social justice.
Dr. Leydens is author or co-author on over 40 peer-reviewed papers, co-author of Engineering and Sustainable Community Development (Morgan and Claypool, 2010), and editor of Sociotechnical Communication in Engineering (Routledge, 2014). In 2016, Dr. Leydens won the Exemplar in Engineering Ethics Education Award from the National Academy of Engineering, along with Mines colleagues Juan C. Lucena and Kathryn Johnson, for a cross-disciplinary suite of courses that enact macroethics by making social justice visible inside the engineering curriculum. With co-author Juan C. Lucena, Dr. Leydens’ most recent book, Engineering Justice: Transforming Engineering Education and Practice (Wiley-IEEE Press, 2018), focused on rendering visible the social justice dimensions inherent in three components of the engineering curriculum—in engineering sciences, engineering design, and humanities and social science courses. His current research explores how to foster and assess sociotechnical thinking in engineering science and design courses. To date, Dr. Leydens has served on extramural grant projects totaling over $1.8 million.