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An Educational Research Agenda For Smet Higher Education

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.64.1 - 4.64.15

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Norman L. Fortenberry

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2230


Norman L. Fortenberry Director, Division of Undergraduate Education National Science Foundation*


This paper identifies the National Science Foundation as the major sponsor of educational research in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology education. It identifies key questions which constitute the basis for an educational research agenda. Gaps in the pursuit of that agenda within engineering education are identified by examination of articles published in the Journal of Engineering Education over the past six years. Finally, a model of a coherent research process for engineering education is offered from an example drawn physics education.

I. Introduction

Major support for educational research is provided by several private and public and private sources. The Spencer Foundation provides support for educational research projects in the range of $300,000 - $400,000 per year for 3 to 4 years. In fiscal 1998, the Spencer Foundation supported 30 projects1. The James S. McDonnell Foundation supports Cognitive Studies for Educational Practice; since 1987 the Foundation has expended $25 million in support of educational research and training2. The Department of Education’s (ED’s) Office of Educational Research and Improvement, under its Field Initiated Studies competition, made 30 awards totaling over $5 million in fiscal year 19973. The National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Division of Research, Evaluation, and Communication invested over $25 million in support of educational research projects in 1997 alone, and invested an additional $30 million in educational technologies and evaluation activities. Not included in these totals are funds invested by other operating divisions (e.g., Division of Undergraduate Education, Division of Engineering Education and Centers, and Division of Social, Behavioral, and Economic Research) and certain NSF-wide initiatives which include significant elements contributing to educational research (e.g., Learning and Intelligent Systems). Thus, NSF is the dominant player in this arena. Within the indicated group of funders, NSF alone focuses exclusively on science and engineering education.

NSF has had programs supporting educational research since, at least, 1980. However, much of the research undertaken was on mathematics learning at the elementary level, with some work on science learning, and some work also on the role of instructional technologies. Much less

* The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the policies and opinions of the Division of Undergraduate Education or the National Science Foundation.

Fortenberry, N. L. (1999, June), An Educational Research Agenda For Smet Higher Education Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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