Asee peer logo

Curriculum Incubation: Data-driven Innovative Instructional Design

Download Paper |


2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Thinking About the Engineering Curriculum

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.376.1 - 25.376.21



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Judith A. Sunderman University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

visit author page

Judith Sunderman is a consultant focusing on program and curriculum development, research, and evaluation in education. She has recently served with the Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education (iFoundry) at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, providing technical assistance for curriculum development. As evaluator with the I-STEM Education Initiative at the University of Illinois, Sunderman focused on small-scale evaluation using short-cycle, coached-change to increase academic performance. Other work has included evaluation of faculty training in P-12 career and technical education for the Illinois State Board of Higher Education/Illinois State University; research and evaluation for the Illinois Assessment and Accountability Project (Illinois State Board of Higher Education/University of Illinois); and the Entrepreneurial Leadership in STEM Teaching and Learning (Project EnLiST - National Science Foundation/University of Illinois). Her research focus and area of expertise is personal development, sustainable transformative learning environments, and curricular change. She has worked with curriculum/programs in a variety of areas, including teaching centers, engineering, business, honors, national scholarship advising, animal sciences, human resource development, and education. Sunderman received her Ph.D. in higher education leadership from the University of Illinois. She has an undergraduate degree in English from DePauw University and an M.B.A. from Eastern Illinois University.

visit author page


Raymond L. Price University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

visit author page

Professor Price was appointed to the William H. Severns Chair of Human Behavior in the College of Engineering in 1998. As the Severns Chair, his primary charter is to provide opportunities for engineering students to understand and develop skills in human behavior: interpersonal skills, leadership, teamwork, and management skills.

Currently, Professor Price is the Co-Director of the Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education (iFoundry). The mission of iFoundry is to change radically the learning experiences of engineering students.

Dr. Price was the Founding Director of the Illinois Leadership Center from 2002-2006. The Center’s mission is to encourage leadership development among Illinois students by providing opportunities to learn and then apply leadership skills.

Dr. Price initiated the Technology Entrepreneur Center in 1999 to support scientist and engineering entrepreneurs in the development and growth of new businesses. Through education, the Center prepares students to start and grow companies. Through a network of support, the Center surrounds entrepreneurs with a success environment that includes experienced advisors and viable investors.

Prior to joining the College of Engineering, Dr. Price had a career in industry working in management and organization development and human resources at Allergan, Boeing and Hewlett-Packard.

Dr. Price earned a PhD degree in Organizational Behavior from Stanford University.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Curriculum Incubation: Data-driven Innovative Instructional DesignBackground The curriculum incubator is an organizational change strategy that nurtures curricular change.Within the incubator, faculty test ideas for integrated course design and pilot novel approaches tocontent and instruction outside of the official curriculum. Students participated in the courses for creditand provided feedback on the curricular design. Only after ideas were refined and outcomesdocumented was implementation to the official curriculum considered. The intention of this researchand development process was to minimize early resistance, to demonstrate methods that work, and totransform the curriculum to better meet the needs of students, faculty, and other stakeholders.MethodsThis mixed methods study probed faculty perceptions about incubator characteristics and effectivenessduring the second year of operation. Interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of faculty andincubator leadership. The sample represented 43.9% (n=18) of participants and 45.45% (n=10) of collegedepartments. The survey, which targeted all participating faculty, had an acceptable rate of return(61%; n=23).An existing instrument, the Situational Outlook Questionnaire (SOQ), which measures organizationalcapacity for innovation, was adapted for the survey. Reliability testing of the adapted instrumentrevealed Cronbach’s Alpha acceptable (.70 or higher) or good (.80 or higher) for all scales and subscales.Qualitative data was analyzed for themes using standard verification techniques in three stages. Surveydata was analyzed in seven stages using descriptive statistics and one-way anova as appropriate forindividual items, aggregated data from subscales, and comparisons among groups.ResultsOther research has shown with a high degree of certainty a strong relationship between the ability of anorganization to implement new ideas and the perceptions of organizational members of the presence ofcertain organizational characteristics. The curriculum incubator revealed these characteristics in aprocess that challenged traditional planned change models of curricular change.Participating faculty perceived high levels of nine characteristics. Participating faculty identified the timeto explore and develop new curricular ideas as the most valuable characteristic of the incubator. Othercharacteristics included light-heartedness; shared experiences; support for ideas; emotional intelligence;intrinsic motivation; willingness to gamble; trust, mutual respect, & support; and freedom to pursueinterests. Results compared favorably to earlier studies of innovative organizations with a track recordof innovation.Conclusions & Wider Significance Curricular change efforts often fail because even after prolonged effort, people revert to oldpractices. The salient attribute of the curriculum incubator was the ability to nurture a temporal spaceand psychological environment in which organizational members were ready, willing, and able to createand sustain change. The wider significance is for leadership. Incubator leadership created an insulated environment,opportunities to test and to document results. Such environments do not happen without the guidedintent of leadership. Within the secure environment of the curriculum incubator, individuals had thetime and the opportunity to chart their own course, to do what felt right at the most elemental level,and to adapt to change in a way that fulfilled their needs, made sense, and moved the organizationforward.Word Count: 499

Sunderman, J. A., & Price, R. L. (2012, June), Curriculum Incubation: Data-driven Innovative Instructional Design Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21134

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: © 2012 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