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Distinguishing The Art From The Science Of Teaching Within Research Based Curriculum And Assessment

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Best of the NEE

Tagged Division

New Engineering Educators

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.556.1 - 12.556.15



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Paper Authors


Wendy James Oklahoma State University

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Wendy James is a PhD student in the College of Education at Oklahoma State University. Currently she has a fellowship promoting collaboration between the College of Education and OSU's Electrical and Computer Engineering department on an NSF funded curriculum reform project called Engineering Students for the 21st Century. She has her M.S. in Teaching, Learning, and Leadership from OSU, and her B.B.S. in Mathematics Education from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas. She has taught math and math education classes at both the high school and college levels.

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Stacee Harmon Oklahoma State University

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Richard Bryant Oklahoma State University

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

Distinguishing the Art from the Science of Teaching within Research-Based Curriculum Development and Assessment Abstract

In order to create a researched-based discipline, the distinction between the art of teaching and the science of teaching must be made. Without this distinction, there can be no dialogue to objectify teaching and allow it to be critically analyzed critically, separate from the content of the subject being taught. For the past two years, the Journal of Engineering Education has trumpeted the need to establish engineering education as a rigorous researched-based discipline, and in the April 2006 edition of JEE, Ruth A. Streveler and Karl A. Smith in the guest editorial7 described three qualities in the research questions engineering faculty tend to display as they begin to practice engineering-education research. All three qualities have a connecting thread resulting from a lack of understanding of how to distinguish between the art and the science of teaching. Clarification of this distinction will allow engineering educators to objectively see why a research study that analyzes an individual researcher’s classroom practice is difficult to replicate, and why assessment of the quality of a particular teaching method is clouded so that it doesn’t reach the “why” or “how” questions about engineering learning. Lack of clarification will continue allow many engineering educators to conduct context-specific studies that are difficult to replicate and have limited generalizability. Understanding the distinction between the art and the science of teaching is the framework for creating the “big picture” in the efforts to build the research-based discipline.

The purpose of this paper is to clearly distinguish the art of teaching from the science of teaching. In doing this, the paper describes the flow of using the science of learning (formed from research in cognitive psychology and cognitive science) to inform the theoretical underpinnings within the science of teaching, which, in turn, informs the art of teaching. Many engineering faculty desire to employ “active” learning methods, such as problem-centered learning or team-based projects, without an understanding of how the performance of these artistic acts of teaching must be fundamentally informed by the sciences of teaching and learning. This results in a lack of rigorous research. The goal of this paper is to distinguish between the science of learning, the science of teaching, and the art of teaching, distinctions that are necessary for continuing the paradigm shift of engineering faculty who desire to be a part of developing research-based, engineering-educational practice.

Complications in Creating Rigorous Engineering-Education Research

In the April 2006 guest editorial “Conducting Rigorous Research in Engineering Education,”7 Ruth A. Streveler and Karl A. Smith describe three potentially problematic qualities that engineering faculty often adopt as they conduct engineering-educational research. The first of these is the faculty’s tendency to create research questions that are too context specific to be generalizable and replicable. The second tendency of the research questions is they ask whether one approach is more effective than the next, and this does not answer or establish the hows and whys behind the approaches that created the conclusions. Lastly, the research questions are not well situated in prior research.

James, W., & Harmon, S., & Bryant, R. (2007, June), Distinguishing The Art From The Science Of Teaching Within Research Based Curriculum And Assessment Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2622

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