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Building And Assessing Capacity In Engineering Education Research: The Bootstrapping Model

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Building Communities for Engineering Education Research

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.296.1 - 11.296.9



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Paper Authors


Sally Fincher University of Kent at Canterbury

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Sally Fincher is a lecturer in the Computing Laboratory at the University of Kent where she leads the Computing Education Research Group. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy & Computer Science (University of Kent, UK) and an M.A. in English (Georgetown University, Washington DC). She is Editor of the journal Computer Science Education, jointly with Renée McCauley. Her principal research areas are Computer Science Education and patterns and pattern languages, especially patterns for interaction design.

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Josh Tenenberg University of Washington-Tacoma

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Josh Tenenberg is an Associate Professor in the Computing and Software Systems program in the Institute of Technology at the University of Washington, Tacoma. He holds a B.M. in music performance (San Francisco State University, U.S.A.) and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science (University of Rochester, U.S.A), where his primary research was in Artificial Intelligence. His research areas have included automated planning, knowledge representation and reasoning, reinforcement learning, temporal logic, and cognitive modeling of computer programming. Most recently, his research is in Computer Science Education, where he is investigating student software design and metacognition.

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

Building and Assessing Capacity in Engineering Education Research: The Bootstrapping Model Abstract Improvements in engineering education will depend to a great extent on the availability of sound engineering education research. But how does a researcher, trained in engineering, begin to carry out education research, relying as it does upon non-engineering methodologies “borrowed” from the learning sciences? In response to these concerns, there have recently been initiatives in developing educational research expertise among engineering educators. In this paper we describe a multi-institutional, multi-national model (which we call Bootstrapping) designed to support education practitioners in Computer Science in undertaking high quality educational research. The Bootstrapping model comprises a set of integrated activities focused on specific acts of collaborative research called experiment kits. An experiment kit is embedded in a one- week workshop, in which particpants learn and practice appropriate research methods. Participants gather data over the course of a year and twelve months later, join a second one- week workshop where they share results, analyze data, plan for reporting and dissemination, and design additional studies. We have run two of these projects in the United State, funded by the National Science Foundation. We also discuss measures by which we might gauge the success of these capacity-building endeavors, anchored in Wenger’s concept of communities of practice. Using participant responses to email questionnaires, we apply these measures to the two instantiations of the Bootstrapping model. This qualitative analysis indicates a dense network of continuing research collaborations, and provides strong evidence for the “shared histories of learning” that characterize communities of practice which extend over time.

Introduction Computer Science Education (CSEd) research is a hybrid field that requires interdisciplinary knowledge. Although most of CSEd research is now based within Computer Science departments, disciplines on which the speciality draws include Computer Science, Psychology and Education. There is no clear entry point — or entry process — for researchers new to the field, whether graduate students or faculty seeking new directions; their enthusiasm may be dissipated in searches for relevant material, paradigms, and support — they need a ‘way in’. Because of the peculiar nature of the requirements for the subject, it is often the case that there are at most one or two staff members in any given department with the necessary knowledge and expertise. This isolation has meant that CSEd research itself has developed in a number of diverse ways, making it difficult to consolidate results from different studies in a meaningful way. Because there is not yet a visible hub, CSEd researchers tend to remain isolated within their departments — they need a community. This paper has two goals. The first goal, addressed in the first half of the paper, is to describe our model for research-capacity building that responds to the lack of entry points and the isolation of the novice CSEd researcher. We call this model Bootstrapping Research in Computer Science Education (hereafter Bootstrapping). We describe the sequence of designed activities that comprise the model, arguing that these designed activities can be understood as enabling the emergence of a communiy of practice.7 The second goal, addressed in the second half of the paper, is to develop measures of success for this model. These measures include not only the

Fincher, S., & Tenenberg, J. (2006, June), Building And Assessing Capacity In Engineering Education Research: The Bootstrapping Model Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--880

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