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Dilemmas In Framing Research Studies In Engineering Education

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Engineering Education Research

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.439.1 - 8.439.13



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Paper Authors

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Jolly Lesley

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David Radcliffe

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

Session 1630`

Dilemmas in Framing Research Studies in Engineering Education

David F Radcliffe, Lesley Jolly

Catalyst Centre, School of Engineering, University of Queensland, Australia


There has been considerable debate about the need for more empirical, evidence based studies of the impact of various interventions and practices in engineering education. A number of resources including workshops to guide engineering faculty in the conduct of such studies have emerged over recent years. This paper presents a critique of the evolution of engineering education research and its underlying assumptions in the context of the systemic reform currently underway in engineering education. This critique leads to an analysis of the ways in which our current understanding of engineering, engineering education and research in engineering education is shaped by the traditions and cultural characteristics of the profession and grounded, albeit implicitly, in a particular suite of epistemological assumptions. It is argued that the whole enterprise of engineering education needs to be radically reconceptualized. A pluralistic approach to framing scholarship in engineering education is then proposed based on the principles of demonstrable practicality, critical interdisciplinarity and holistic reflexivity. This new framework has implications for engaging and developing faculty in the context of new teaching and learning paradigms, for the evaluation of the scholarship of teaching and for the research-teaching nexus.


During the 1990s there was a sustained global debate about reform in engineering education. The EC 2000 developed by ABET typify the shift towards a broader set of measurable outcomes that emerged from this process. Similar reforms have taken place in other countries. For instance in Australia, the report of the national Review of Engineering Education entitled Changing the Culture1 lead to a change in the accreditation of Australian engineering programs based more on outcomes with a particular emphasis on the demonstration of broader graduate attributes. This change has challenged engineering colleges to investigate and evaluate valid and reliable means of assessing student learning and performance based on research. 2-5

The question of quality in higher education, especially in undergraduate teaching is a growing political issue. The various stakeholders, including students, governments, industry and the wider community, are seeking greater assurance that they are receiving value (however that is measured) from their investment in higher education. This current “preoccupation with quality” 6 and its implication of higher education is a source of considerable debate and discontent. In countries including the UK, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, national agencies have been established to monitor quality through a structured process of assessment of institutions.

“Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education”

Lesley, J., & Radcliffe, D. (2003, June), Dilemmas In Framing Research Studies In Engineering Education Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12004

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