June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
Educational Research and Methods
11.3.1 - 11.3.11
15 Years of Engineering Education Reform: Lessons Learned and Future Challenges
Since the founding of the ECSEL and Synthesis coalitions in the early 1990’s, the National Science Foundation, ARPA, and other government agencies as well as private foundations have made substantial investments to improve engineering curricula, teaching and learning practices, and the ‘pipeline’ from K-12 into engineering. In 2001, Bjorklund and Colbeck1 reported the results of their interviews with 27 leaders of engineering colleges and professional organizations in which they discussed change that had taken place over ten years since the founding of the first coalitions. The participants were asked what they believed were the two most significant changes over that decade. Greater exposure to design and emphasis on effective teaching were mentioned by ten of the 27 participants, followed closely by implementation of computer technology in research and teaching, which was mentioned by nine participants. Next in line were accreditation/assessment and funding, mentioned by seven of 27.
Experience at Penn State in reforming our engineering undergraduate programs has largely mirrored these responses. Indeed the ECSEL coalition, made possible by NSF support, was built around the theme of “integration of design across the curriculum.” ECSEL had a very significant impact on our College-wide efforts to enhance teaching and learning, steering us in a direction and path of work that continue today. We have introduced a variety of new, more effective teaching and learning strategies on our campuses including active and collaborative learning along with technology-based teaching and learning. Clearly, implementing new processes of assessment of outcomes for ABET is having a significant effect on our programs. We have been fortunate to have other influences, as well, including good counsel from external advisory boards and the resources from an endowed center for engineering education, both of which have been effective in fostering change.
Over the last 15 years, these diverse drivers for change have nurtured nearly 50 major projects for which substantial funding was available. These 50 initiatives, however, do not begin to represent the totality of the effort because many individual faculty and small groups of faculty carried out projects to improve what they are doing in their own classes without the benefit of additional funding. Over this time, a number of different approaches to leading the change process have been applied. In reflecting on our experiences, it is apparent that we employed different approaches to facilitate change depending on the circumstances, in a sense applying situational leadership, and also that our change model has evolved much along the lines described by Clark et al.,2 shifting to a model that always has the question of how we will sustain an innovation built in from the outset.
To write this paper, we have selected projects from which we drew significant lessons about the process of implementing and sustaining change. For each, we briefly summarize the approach
Litzinger, T., & Pangborn, R., & Wormley, D. (2006, June), 15 Years Of Engineering Education Reform: Lessons Learned And Future Challenges Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--212
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