2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Understanding How a Culture of Collaboration Develops Among STEM Faculty

Presented at Faculty Development II: Building Community Among STEM Educators

Despite frequent calls for reform and a proliferation of research-based instructional strategies (RBIS), adoption of RBIS by engineering faculty remains low. As a result, understanding dissemination and implementation tactics of RBIS has emerged as a critical topic within engineering education research. Early work in understanding this topic has suggested that collaborative faculty environments that create common values and vision among faculty provide the most promising avenue for improving the dissemination and implementation of RBIS. While there has been research that studies teaming generally or even how faculty collaborate in their research, few studies have explicitly studied faculty collaborations and teaming practices to implement RBIS. In order to fill this gap, the research team has started a broad research agenda to understand how cultures of collaboration develop among engineering faculty engaged in implementing teaching innovation including RBIS’s. Therefore, the current study explores the research question, “how do engineering faculty describe their experience of participating in collaborative projects that promote and support the implementation of teaching innovation?”

This qualitative study employs an exploratory phenomenological approach, using semi-structured interviews with 12 engineering faculty across academic ranks. The participants worked on a variety collaborative team projects to implement teaching innovations at a Midwestern large research-intensive, predominantly white institution (PWI). The project durations ranged from one to three years for sustainable implementation of teaching innovations. The semi-structured interviews covered the participant’s previous teaching experience prior to joining the community of practice, a description of their current role in the community including what did and did not work well, and a description of their vision for the community in the future. Consistent with phenomenological research, the interviews were evaluated holistically to allow essential themes of the experience to emerge.

This paper describes the results of the phenomenological analysis to date which suggests two emergent themes related to engineering faculty re-categorizing their in-group identity of those engaged in the implementation of teaching innovation. Re-categorization is the redefining of in-group and out-groups where the boundaries separating the groups are replaced with a single, inclusive boundary. Specifically, engineering faculty engaged with applying RBIS’s were defined as a group with a clear boundaries of participation by the in-group and non-participation of the out-group. Two related themes emerged from engineering faculty redefining the boundaries between themselves and colleagues not involved in implementing teaching innovation or re-categorizing. First, several participants described how participating in the collaborative venture modified their teaching perspective or motivation to engage in implementing instructional innovation. For example, one participant said, “my views have firmed from the evidence of working with [project] about what we should be doing, what's important, and what's useful.” The closely related second emergent theme articulated by the participants was being recognized by peers and the expansion of their professional networks from participating in the program. Therefore, the identity shift and re-categorization support the process of developing a collaborative community of engineering faculty that are engaged in implementing instructional innovations.

  1. Dr. Kelly J. Cross University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign [biography]
  2. Dr. Natasha Aniceto Mamaril University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign [biography]
  3. Ms. Nicole Johnson University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign [biography]
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