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An Autoethnography: Outcomes from Faculty Engagement in Course Development in a Large First-year Engineering Program

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Conference

2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

The Best of First-year Programs Division

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count

16

DOI

10.18260/1-2--34109

Permanent URL

https://jee.org/34109

Download Count

36

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Paper Authors

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Holly M. Matusovich Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Dr. Holly M. Matusovich is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Education. She is current the Assistant Department Head for Undergraduate Programs and the former Assistant Department Head for Graduate Programs in Virginia Tech’s Department of Engineering Education. Dr. Matusovich is recognized for her research and practice related to graduate student mentoring. She won the Hokie Supervisor Spotlight Award in 2014, was nominated for a Graduate Advising Award in 2015, and won the 2018 Graduate Student Mentor Award for the College of Engineering. Dr. Matusovich has graduated 10 doctoral students since starting her research program in Spring 2009. Dr. Matusovich co-hosts the Dissertation Institute, a one-week workshop each summer funded by NSF, to help underrepresented students develop the skills and writing habits to complete doctorate degrees in engineering. Across all of her research avenues, Dr. Matusovich has been a PI/Co-PI on 12 funded research projects including the NSF CAREER Award with her share of funding be ingnearly $2.3 million. She has co-authored 2 book chapters, 21 journal publications and more than 70 conference papers. She has won several Virginia Tech awards including a Dean’s Award for Outstanding New Faculty, an Outstanding Teacher Award and a Faculty Fellow Award. She holds a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Cornell University, an M.S. in Materials Science from the University of Connecticut and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University.

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Homero Murzi Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0003-3849-2947

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Homero Murzi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. He holds degrees in Industrial Engineering (BS, MS), Master of Business Administration (MBA) and in Engineering Education (PhD). Homero has 15 years of international experience working in industry and academia. His research focuses on contemporary and inclusive pedagogical practices, industry-driven competency development in engineering, and understanding the barriers that Latinx and Native Americans have in engineering. Homero has been recognized as a Diggs scholar, a Graduate Academy for Teaching Excellence fellow, a Diversity scholar, a Fulbright scholar and was inducted in the Bouchet Honor Society.

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David Gray Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Dr. Gray receieved his B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Virginia Tech in 2000. He then earned a M.S. and a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Virginia Tech in 2002 and 2010, respectively. Much of his graduate education focused on semiconductor devices physics and materials processing. However, his actual Ph.D. dissertation was on thermal modeling and process control of a friction stir fabrication method of additive manufacturing. Dr. Gray followed up his Ph.D. with a position as a post-doctoral associate under the guidance of Dr. Dwight Veihland working with composite magnetic field sensors.
After his education, Dr. Gray continued his research in small-business environments, developing technologies and products across a wide range of fields including magnetic materials, sensors, and devices, energy harvesting technologies, harsh environment sensing, additive manufacturing, non-destructive inspection and evaluation, and vehicle autonomy.
Dr. Gray came to the Engineering Education department as an instructor in 2018, and was promoted to Associate Professor of Practice in August 2019. Dr. Gray is primarily focused on pedagogy of first-year engineering students, but maintains an undergraduate research group with interests in automotive systems, communications, computing, and non-destructive inspection.

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Benjamin D. Chambers Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Benjamin Chambers is an Associate Professor of Practice in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. He is an interdisciplinary scholar with three degrees from Virginia Tech, including an MS Civil Infrastructure Engineering, MS Entomology, and a PhD in Environmental Design and Planning. Ben also has professional experience in utility-scale wind power development. His educational research interests include student creativity and mindfulness, as well as the built environment as an educational tool for engineering, biology, and ecology. He is also interested in animal interactions with buildings, particularly overwintering stink bugs.

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Matthew B. James Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Matthew James is an Assistant Professor of Practice in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, and is a registered Professional Engineer in the State of Virginia. He holds bachelors and masters degrees from Virginia Tech in Civil Engineering.

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Abstract

This complete evidence-based practice documents the planning and implementation process used by one institution in redeveloping its first-year general engineering courses. The required two-course sequence provides an introduction to engineering knowledge and skills as well as an opportunity for over 2,000 students per year to explore the more than 15 different majors from which they can choose. In an effort to provide consistency in the student experience across individual sections of the course, instructors teach from a common course structure and general scope for content and course assessment. Nevertheless, individual instructors have the opportunity to individualize their sections of the course. Meeting the purpose of the course and functioning within a structure that supports the number of students (multiple teachers, multiple sections of the course, graduate teaching assistant support, undergraduate graders, etc.), can be challenging to continuous improvement and on-going course development processes. Through this study, we will share and critically examine our process for revamping the core courses (Foundations of Engineering I and Foundations of Engineering II) over the past two years.

This paper answered the research question: What are the individual, collective, and pragmatic outcomes from engaging faculty from a variety of backgrounds in on-going continual course development and improvement in a large first-year engineering program? This fills a gap in current literature because many descriptive papers and research studies alike focus primarily on course content but less on the structure of the program and how it evolves and develops Furthermore, this paper provides the combined but individual experiences of the professors of practice that completed the curriculum restructuring. Our goal is to provide advice from first-hand experience to assist in the implementation of a similar process at other institutions or in different fields.

Our study is guided by the central constructs in the Interconnected Model of Teacher Growth. While this model focuses on the individual growth of the teacher, it is also a relevant perspective for reflecting on instructor engagement with course development. The model considers 4 domains in which teachers function and grow: personal domain (knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes), the external domain (external sources of stimulus or information), the domain of practice (professional experimentation), and the domain of consequence (salient outcomes). This is an appropriate model to use for this work because in recent years the program has experienced considerable changes that align with the elements of this framework. In the personal domain, we have a large teaching team that brings variety in personal experiences. In the external domain, we have had changes in leadership at several levels and large changes in student enrollment numbers. In the domain of practice, we have experimented with different approaches with varying degrees of similarity and differences across individual sections of the course. In the domain of consequence, we have been reconsidering our approaches to assessment fueled both by program changes and an upcoming ABET review.

Our study is an analysis of autoethnographies completed by those involved in the courses’ development process. Individually, participants reflected on a series of questions informed by the theory guiding the study. In addition to pragmatic questions about what worked well and what did not, we used the framework to make invisible or behind the scenes considerations visible: Where and how in this process did personal beliefs (yours or others) come into play (including previous personal experiences)? What external factors contributed to course development decisions (positive and negative)? What, if any, experimentation was involved? What salient outcomes were considered for students, faculty and other stakeholders? These reflections were collectively, qualitatively analyzed for themes and patterns to yield a series of lessons learned.

Our results provide an insight into what went well, and what didn’t go well. We offer useful and specific advice for others looking to replicate the process. For example, at the beginning of the revamping process, the personal domain (knowledge, beliefs, and attitudes) of the team was quite diverse. While Engineering Education experience was well represented, the team also included people with a variety of qualifications in engineering and beyond, at all career stages, and in some cases with extensive or recent industry experience. The team, then, had experience with a variety of pedagogical methods, each according to the concurrent needs and traditions of their disciplines as they took or facilitated courses. As the revamping process progressed, the entire team had opportunities to be exposed to both familiar and unfamiliar guiding philosophies.

Matusovich, H. M., & Murzi, H., & Gray, D., & Chambers, B. D., & James, M. B. (2020, June), An Autoethnography: Outcomes from Faculty Engagement in Course Development in a Large First-year Engineering Program Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34109

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