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A Faculty Learning Community to Improve Teaching Practices in Large Engineering Courses: Lasting Impacts

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Continuing Professional Development Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

Continuing Professional Development

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.46.1 - 24.46.9



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Paper Authors


Olivia S. Anderson University of Michigan

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Dr. Olivia S. Anderson is a postdoctoral research associate at the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching at the University of Michigan (CRLT). At U-M, she earned a master's in public health in human nutrition, a Registered Dietitian (RD) credential, and a Ph.D. in environmental health sciences. Her teaching experience began as an undergraduate teaching assistant for a biology lab and later on was involved in patient education as an RD for kids, teens, and adults, and was a GSI at U-M for two environmental health sciences courses. At CRLT, she is involved in education research, assessment and evaluation projects, and various professional development programs for students and faculty.

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Cynthia Finelli University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Cynthia Finelli is director of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching Engineering and a research associate professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan. She actively pursues research in engineering education and assists other faculty at U-M in their scholarly endeavors. Her current research interests include studying faculty motivation to change classroom practices, evaluating methods to improve teaching, and exploring ethical decision-making in undergraduate engineering students. Dr. Finelli leads a national initiative to create a taxonomy/keyword outline for the field of engineering education research. She is past chair of the Educational Research and Methods Division of ASEE and an ASEE Fellow.

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A Faculty Learning Community to Improve Teaching Practices in Large Engineering Courses:Lasting ImpactsFaculty’s teaching practices are known to affect student success. There is ample evidence that usingactive learning techniques in the classroom, building rapport with students, addressing students’misconceptions about course content, and working to increase student motivation have a positive impacton student learning, knowledge retention, and persistence. Despite the large body of research supportingthese effective teaching practices, though, engineering faculty identify several barriers to adopting them.Such barriers include, but are not limited to, lack of familiarity with the practices, inadequate time toapply new teaching practices to their courses, and the possibility of student resistance.To leverage the research evidence, address the barriers of implementation, and support faculty in adoptingeffective teaching practices, we designed and implemented the “Teaching Circle for Large EngineeringCourses.” The cohort-based program was lead by an experienced instructional developer paired with arespected engineering faculty member. It included four monthly sessions during one academic term forengineering faculty to learn about relevant research and identify practical strategies to integrate theteaching practices into their own course. The four sessions of the Teaching Circle addressed studentrapport in large classes, active learning, student motivation and screencasts, and student preconceptionsand classroom response systems. During the program, participants interacted extensively with the twoprogram facilitators, with each other, and with other senior faculty who were invited guests at meetings.Thus far, we have facilitated the Teaching Circle during three separate terms, inviting all engineeringfaculty to apply for the program each time. Due to funding and staffing constraints, each offering waslimited to six or seven participants, and these faculty were selected from among the applicant pool torepresent a range of rank, experience, and discipline. And because the program was oversubscribed,applicants who were fairly matched to the participants but who were not invited to join the program wereasked to serve as a control group. To date, twenty faculty members have completed one of the threeTeaching Circles offered, and seventeen faculty participated in the control group.To study the lasting impacts of the Teaching Circle on faculty’s attitudes and behaviors towards teaching,we administered two validated survey instruments to Teaching Circle participants and control groupfaculty. First, Trigwell and Prosser’s Approaches to Teaching Inventory allowed us to characterize thedegree to which an individual approached teaching in a teacher-focused or student-focused way. Second,Murray’s Teaching Behaviors Inventory allowed us to assess faculty’s self-reported enthusiasm, clarity,interaction, task orientation, rapport, and organization. We administered both instruments before theprogram started (pre-intervention), when the program ended (post-intervention ), and up to three timeslater (follow-up #1, follow-up #2, and follow-up 3).In this paper, we will provide details about the structure and content of the Teaching Circle, and we willpresent demographic details of the participants and the control group. We also will show longitudinal datarepresenting faculty’s attitude towards teaching (degree of teacher-focused and student-focusedapproaches) and self-reported teaching behavior (enthusiasm, clarity, interaction, task orientation, rapport,and organization), and we will compare the data for both groups. Finally, we will offer implications forothers wishing to adapt our program in their own context.

Anderson, O. S., & Finelli, C. (2014, June), A Faculty Learning Community to Improve Teaching Practices in Large Engineering Courses: Lasting Impacts Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--19938

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