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Engineering Faculty Attitudes Toward Service Learning

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Faculty Attitudes and Perceptions

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.507.1 - 13.507.21



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Paper Authors


Cathy Burack Brandeis University

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Senior Fellow, Higher Education, Center for Youth and Communities, Heller School for Social Policy and Management

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John Duffy University of Massachusetts Lowell

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Professor, Mechanical Engineering; Faculty Coordinator, SLICE Program; Coordinator, Graduate Program in Solar Energy Engineering

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Alan Melchior Brandeis University

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Associate Director, Center for Youth and Communities, Heller School for Social Policy and Management

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Eric Morgan University of Massachusetts Lowell

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Graduate Student, Solar Energy Engineering

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

Engineering Faculty Attitudes toward Service-Learning


SLICE is a multi-year initiative at the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML) that is designed to embed service-learning opportunities for students throughout the undergraduate curriculum in the College of Engineering, with the ultimate goal that each student would have at least one course every semester with a service-learning project. Since it began in 2004, thirty- seven full-time faculty members in the engineering college at UML have tried service-learning (S-L) in at least one of their courses over the last three years, out of an average of 70 faculty members who taught undergraduate courses. In 2003 there was one full-time faculty member engaged in S-L. As a result of SLICE, a total of 52 courses (35 of them required core undergraduate courses) taken by engineering students have had S-L integrated into them, with a total of over 700 student-courses each semester. This group of faculty members is perhaps the largest associated with a single engineering college using S-L. They were recruited in part by the principle of “start small rather than not at all.” The program has a combination of grass-roots initiative and administration support.

As part an ongoing evaluation, in depth interviews with fourteen faculty members who had tried SLICE were undertaken by experienced assessors of S-L projects from an outside university. All of the faculty members interviewed indicated that they saw SLICE as a valuable element in the engineering program, based on their own experience. All saw it as adding important dimensions to the learning experience that were not available through traditional classroom exercises, and all believed that it was consistent with efforts to broaden students’ understanding of both engineering and their role in society. Finally, though all noted challenges with regard to implementation, they also indicated that the integration of S-L was worth the extra effort that it often involved. One faculty member even said, “It will change the way we think about engineering. It adds an additional dimension.” One area in which the SLICE experience itself can be strengthened is through increased community partner involvement and exploration of ways to help students (and faculty) make the connection between SLICE projects and the broad social context. Presently most faculty and students seem to view the community agencies being served in a typical engineer-client relationship, which does have limitations compared to viewing the community agencies as equal partners and as capable of teaching the students at least about the social impact of their technical projects.

Annual surveys of the engineering faculty members (averaging approximately 40 responses or about two-thirds of the faculty) also found broad support for S-L, with nearly 70% agreeing in principle to the idea of integration of service and academic coursework by 2006. Faculty responding to the survey ranked time as the biggest barrier to trying S-L, their own time, course time, and student time. One of program stated goals, however, is to not add extra work for the students but to replace existing “paper” projects with S-L projects.

Burack, C., & Duffy, J., & Melchior, A., & Morgan, E. (2008, June), Engineering Faculty Attitudes Toward Service Learning Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3911

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