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Capturing the Differences Between Two Virtual Communities of Practice Models for Faculty Development

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Faculty Development II: Building Community Among STEM Educators

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Katherine G. Nelson Arizona State University

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Katie just recently finished her PhD at ASU and is currently working as adjunct faculty at ASU. Her research interests include complexity learning, cognition, and motivation.

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Ann F. McKenna Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus

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Ann F. McKenna is a Professor in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and Director of The Polytechnic School at Arizona State University. Prior to joining ASU she served as a program director at the National Science Foundation in the Division of Undergraduate Education, and was on the faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Segal Design Institute at Northwestern University. Dr. McKenna received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Drexel University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

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Rocio C. Chavela Guerra American Society for Engineering Education

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Rocio Chavela is Director of Education and Career Development at the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). She holds a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University, a B.S. and a M.S. in Chemical Engineering from Universidad de las Americas, Puebla in Mexico. Rocio’s current efforts focus on engineering faculty and graduate student development, with particular emphasis on the adoption of evidence-based instructional practices.

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Russ Pimmel University of Alabama (Emeritus)

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Russell Pimmel has degrees from St Louis University and Iowa State University. He has held faculty positions at Ohio State University, University of North Carolina, University of Missouri, and University of Alabama; engineering positions at Emerson Electric, Battelle Northwest, and McDonnell-Douglas; and a program director at the National Science Foundation. His research interests focus on interactive pedagogies and faculty development.

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Capturing the differences between two virtual communities of practice models for faculty development

Faculty development is a possible pathway to inform and encourage adoption of research-based education practices into engineering classrooms. We developed a model for faculty development that goes beyond existing models to focus specifically on implementation of research-based education practices. Our program, the engineering education virtual communities of practice (VCP), was a faculty development model done virtually that utilized the learning community formed to promote implementation of research-based education practices in engineering classrooms. The engineering education VCP was carried out using two different designs. The first cohort (Cycle 1) were grouped based on similar courses: electric circuits, mass and energy balance, mechanics, and thermodynamics (n = 77). The second cohort (Cycle 2) was grouped based on similar engineering disciplines: Chemical, Civil/Environmental, Computer, Mechanical, and Electrical Engineering (n = 98). The leaders for each group focused specifically on exposing the participants to research-based educational practices and associated implementation efforts of these practices in their classrooms. Each group met virtually using Adobe® ConnectTM (Adobe Systems, San Jose, CA) and shared resources through Open Atrium 1.0 (Phase2 Technology, 2011), a web portal. These communication tools aided the group as they developed into a learning community. We wanted to determine if there was greater adoption of research-based educational practices depending on whether the VCP was organized around certain courses (Cycle 1) or around certain engineering disciplines (Cycle 2). Using Roger’s Model of diffusion of innovation, a self-report survey was developed and used to measure faculty member’s awareness of, attitudes toward, and adoption of research-based educational practices. Roger’s model is a step-wise process through which innovation (research-based education practices) is ultimately adopted. A two-way within-subjects repeated measures ANOVA was used to assess significant differences between each cycle related to awareness (step 1), attitudes (step 2), and adoption (step 3) of research-based educational practices. For Awareness, there was not a statistically significant main effect for Cycle (Λ = 0.87, F[2,28] = 3.66, p =0.067). However, there was a statistically significant main effect for Cycle for Attitudes (Λ = 0.61, F[2,28] = 18.30, p <0.01) and Adoption (Λ = 0.46, F[2,28] = 29.85, p <0.01). Adoption had the greatest mean in Cycle 1, whereas Attitudes had the greatest mean in Cycle 2. The VCP models used for faculty development demonstrated differences for use of research-based educational practices by faculty in their classrooms. Cycle 2, which was organized around engineering disciplines, demonstrated more positive attitudes (Step 2) for the implementation of research-based education practices. Cycle 1, which was organized around specific engineering courses, demonstrated more adoption (Step 3) of research-based education practices. Our data provides evidence to support framing faculty development models around courses because it may lead to more adoption of research-based educational practices in engineering classrooms. Additional research is needed to determine why a course-specific approach to faculty development led to more adoption of research-based education practices.

Nelson, K. G., & McKenna, A. F., & Chavela Guerra, R. C., & Pimmel, R. (2016, June), Capturing the Differences Between Two Virtual Communities of Practice Models for Faculty Development Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26450

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