June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
13.128.1 - 13.128.15
A Unique Research Experience in Bioengineering Education for Undergraduates in the VaNTH REU
Most Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) programs are designed to provide summer research opportunities in a particular domain of engineering or science. The VaNTH REU has been unique in focusing instead on education research projects in bioengineering. These projects allow students from various fields to gain a different perspective on their education while making the decisions about content and pedagogy that instructors usually make. After an introductory session at Vanderbilt, students spend the next nine weeks working with mentors from Vanderbilt University, Northwestern University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology or the University of Texas at Austin. While at these sites, students meet weekly by video- or tele-conference to report on their projects. Work on ethics and communication were integrated into the REU experience. The REU students, who are mostly in engineering, have become engaged in the process and methods of engineering education research and, in many cases, have made substantial contributions to the development and/or classroom evaluation of educational materials. At the same time, they have learned a particular field of bioengineering more deeply. This paper discusses the VaNTH REU program and illustrates the contributions of REU students to successful innovations in bioengineering pedagogy. While it would be difficult to replicate the VaNTH REU program in its entirety, many of its components are transferable and could help students who are considering faculty careers or graduate school in engineering education.
1.1 The VaNTH ERC The VaNTH Engineering Research Center (ERC) in Bioengineering Educational Technologies was founded in 1999 to do research in learning science, learning technologies, and bioengineering curriculum. A partnership of Vanderbilt University, Northwestern University, the University of Texas at Austin, and the Division of Health Sciences and Technology at Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, VaNTH has investigated many areas of engineering education, with a focus on bioengineering. VaNTH has studied the effectiveness of challenge-based instruction, has contributed to the dialog on the development of students’ adaptive expertise, has studied the development of pedagogical knowledge and novel teaching methods by faculty, has developed and evaluated new learning technologies, and has developed approaches to help bioengineering students communicate more effectively and understand ethical issues related to their field. In the course of this work, VaNTH has produced educational materials for others to use that have the potential to impact all bioengineering and biomedical engineering programs in the country. In addition, since bioengineering integrates engineering and the life sciences, subsets of materials developed in the ERC will also impact education in these fields. Further, some of the materials have been disseminated for middle school and high school students. This paper discusses how a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program engaged undergraduates in this work, benefiting both the students and the VaNTH ERC and argues that similar programs, or even aspects of this program, would be very helpful to students considering faculty careers in engineering or graduate school in engineering education.
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