June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
New Engineering Educators
12.441.1 - 12.441.16
Decisions about teaching: What factors do engineering faculty consider? Abstract
This current research paper uses a cognitive science methodology for investigating the phenomenon of teaching decision making in engineering education. We ask engineering educators to identify two memorable, recent teaching-related decisions in terms of pre-active (planning) and interactive (in-class) stages. They then describe the situation, the process of making the decision, the factors that they took into account, and the outcomes of their teaching- related decisions. In this paper, we focus on time as the one specific factor that emerged across all the participants in this research study.
Decision making is central to the teaching of engineering, however, little has been written about the teaching decisions of engineering educators. We believe that the engineering educator community can benefit from insights into how to better prepare for teaching decisions in order to be an effective instructor because engineering educators are faced with teaching-related decisions on a daily basis.
We are particularly interested in studying engineering educator decision making because of the link between teaching decisions and critical issues in engineering education. In particular, teaching decisions represent a context for the use of information such as information about student diversity, student prior knowledge and misconceptions, and the variety of available pedagogies. We believe that the results of our study will enable the engineering education community to develop more effective ways to educate the educators about such information and how to use it. Further, we anticipate that by asking educators about their teaching decisions, we may trigger reflection, which in and of itself may lead to improvements in teaching practice.
By exploring the processes through which engineering educators make teaching decisions and the factors they consider, we can use decision making as a lens to understand their teaching practices and gain a better understanding of how to help engineering educators make more effective decisions about their teaching. We believe that this approach is particularly appropriate because it is a framework used extensively in the field of engineering (i.e., design decision- making) and thus may be a more familiar framework to discuss their teaching practices.
We chose to emphasize teaching decision-making using the following educational and psychological definitions. Sutcliffe and Whitfield1 have defined a teaching decision as “a decision made during the execution of the professional responsibilities of the teacher” (p. 16). In addition, teaching decision making also references the notion of “a decision as a commitment to act. Action is therefore the irrevocable allocation of valuable resources.”2
There are many challenges to studying decision-making because it is a subjective activity, making it difficult to research and study directly. While most engineering educators acknowledge that they make some explicit decisions, most of their decisions are invisible and
Huang, Y., & Yellin, J., & Turns, J. (2007, June), Decisions About Teaching: What Factors Do Engineering Faculty Consider? Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://peer.asee.org/2203
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