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Building a Community of Practice: Discipline-based Educational Research Groups

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Technical Session: Student Experience & Perspectives

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Page Count


Page Numbers

26.298.1 - 26.298.8



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Paper Authors


Anastasia Marie Rynearson Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Anastasia Rynearson is a Purdue Doctoral Fellow pursuing a degree in Engineering Education at Purdue University. She received a B.S. and M.Eng. in Mechanical Engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Her teaching experience includes outreach activities at various age levels as well as a position as Assistant Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Kanazawa Technical College. Her current research interests focus on early P-12 engineering education and identity development.

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Building a Community of Practice: Discipline-Based Educational Research GroupsEngineering Education is a growing field. Twenty-three universities have doctoral programs inengineering education while numerous others offer certificates, courses, or the option to pursueengineering education research in traditional engineering disciplines1. Twenty institutions haveASEE Student Chapters, offering another way for students who are interested in engineeringeducation research to meet and form a community of practice2. A community of practice is aninformal social learning system where members find a sense of belonging due to a shared topicof interest3. Being a part of a community of practice an important way for graduate students tounderstand the norms of the research area they are entering including how to perform and presentresearch, discuss ideas with others, and learn and grow in their chosen area. Engineeringeducation is not currently a course of study that is available to undergraduates; joining acommunity of practice is more important for new engineering education researchers as they arelikely coming from a post-positivist engineering background and are now attempting to interactin a more constructivist realm with different norms and ideas of what rigorous research can be.For those who do not have strong engineering education communities of practice on theircampus, there are other ways to interact with those doing educational research in STEM fields,commonly known as Discipline-Based Educational Research (DBER). Many DBER scholars area small subset of their department, for example, some may study Chemistry Education within theChemistry Department, following the same requirements as a traditional Chemistry PhD studentwhile focusing on the educational aspects of their field. DBER organizations can bring togetherscholars who are struggling to understand the new paradigm in their own field to create a broadersense of community and learning. A strong community can provide support, both emotionallyand academically, contributing to the success of graduate students who may not have suchsupport structures in their own departments.This paper will describe the formation and growth of one such organization at a largeMidwestern university using the community of practice framework3. The members of this grouphave found many benefits and used the community of practice in many different waysthroughout its two years of existence. Evidence will be presented from interviews and a focusgroup of DBER members to support the assertions made.In addition to describing the benefits of this community of practice, this paper will providerecommendations for creating and maintaining a similar group at other institutions. While therecommendations provided may not work for everyone, they will cover common pitfalls andobstacles likely to be seen in the formation and continuation of a cross-disciplinaryextracurricular organization. References[1] Carberry, A., "Engineering education departments and programs (graduate)", engineeringeducationlist, 2011.[2] "Student chapters": ASEE Student Divison, 2014.[3] Wenger, E., "Communities of practice and social learning systems", Organization Vol. 7, No. 2, 2000, pp. 225-246.

Rynearson, A. M. (2015, June), Building a Community of Practice: Discipline-based Educational Research Groups Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23637

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015