Asee peer logo

Challenging The Norm In Engineering Education: Understanding Organizational Culture And Curricular Change

Download Paper |


2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Curricular Change Issues

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.298.1 - 9.298.20



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Jeff Froyd

author page

Carolyn Clark

author page

Prudence Merton

author page

Jim Richardson

Download Paper |

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

Session 2630

Challenging the Norm in Engineering Education: Understanding Organizational Culture and Curricular Change

Prudence Merton, Jeff Froyd, M. Carolyn Clark, and Jim Richardson

Texas A&M University / Texas A&M University/ Texas A&M University/ University of Alabama


In the study of organizational behavior, several linkages have been made between organizational change and organizational culture. One link suggests that a “strong” culture is a prerequisite for corporate success, and attaining “excellence” often requires culture change. In the study of change in higher education, there have been suggestions that an institution must have a “culture” that facilitates change, and that change strategies are often shaped by organizational culture. Recently, as presented in the 2003 ASEE conference, Godfrey1 made a considerable contribution to understanding the culture of engineering education by providing a theoretical model that may assist change leaders in understanding the dimensions of their own school’s engineering education culture. She suggests that if the espoused values inherent in any proposed change do not reflect the existing culture at an “operational level,” change will be difficult to sustain.

In the Foundation Coalition (FC) we have been studying the change processes FC partner institutions went through to restructure freshman and sophomore curricula. The six diverse FC institutions attempted major curricular changes based on an identical set of principles using similar change models. We noticed that similar change strategies produced different results. Using two examples from the same institution from our study, this paper will examine change strategies through the framework of organizational culture, a framework in which engineering education culture is subsumed. In showing how organizational culture was a critical variable in curricular changes undertaken by one FC institution, we will show how essential cultural analysis is to any change attempt.


Many reports of curricular change in engineering education have focused on descriptions of changes, e.g., the content of new course materials, or the results of changes, e.g., how incorporating new teaching strategies affected student learning. Some of these reports have come from the work of faculty in the NSF-sponsored Foundation Coalition (FC), currently consisting of six institutions: Arizona State University (ASU), Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology (RHIT), Texas A&M University (TAMU), the University of

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Froyd, J., & Clark, C., & Merton, P., & Richardson, J. (2004, June), Challenging The Norm In Engineering Education: Understanding Organizational Culture And Curricular Change Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--13435

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: © 2004 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