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Complex Systems Research and Evaluation in Engineering Education

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Motivation and Engagement

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Jonathan C. Hilpert Georgia Southern University

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Dr. Jonathan C. Hilpert is an Associate Professor of Educational Psychology in the Department of Curriculum Reading and Foundations in the College of Education at Georgia Southern University. His research interests include student motivation, engagement, and interactive learning; emergent and self-organizing properties of educational systems; and knowledge construction of complex scientific phenomena. He teaches courses in learning theories, research methods, and assessment and statistics. His research findings have been disseminated in national and international engineering education and psychological journals (including Journal of Engineering Education, Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, Educational Psychology, Psychological Inquiry, and Motivation and Emotion) as well as presented at national and internal conferences (including American Education Research Association, American Society for Engineering Education; European Association for Research in Learning and Instruction; and various symposiums organized by the National Science Foundation). He has a son named Gray and a dog named Argyle.

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Gwen C. Marchand University of Nevada, Las Vegas

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Dr. Gwen Marchand is an associate professor of Educational Psychology and the Director of the Center for Research, Evaluation, and Assessment (CREA) at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Dr. Marchand received her doctorate in 2008 from Portland State University in Systems Science: Psychology. Her research investigates the development of student engagement from a complex systems perspective, focusing on the interaction of individual and contextual factors.

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The purpose of this theory-to-practice paper is to discuss complex systems research needs within engineering education. We provide a comprehensive definition of complex systems educational research and an overview of methods specific to the approach. After this, we delineate a research-based framework that can be used to develop and conduct complex systems research and evaluation. We identify two areas within the field of engineering education where complex systems research can be useful: 1) educational research focused on student interaction and cognition and 2) assessment and evaluation of collaboratives such as grant funded projects and communication/ publication networks. We discuss existing literature in these spaces, and then outline the critical research needs for engineering education. We address each of these critical needs with an eye on theory as well as methodological and analytic techniques that can be used to design and conduct complex systems research and evaluation in engineering education settings and contexts. The result is a set of specific guidelines that researchers can use to move complex systems research forward in engineering education. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number NSF DUE #1245018 and partial support was also provided by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, Grant No. P20GM109025.

Hilpert, J. C., & Marchand, G. C. (2017, June), Complex Systems Research and Evaluation in Engineering Education Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28059

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