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Engineering Practice in the Academic Plan: External Influences, Faculty, and Their Teaching Roles

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Engineering Faculty: Interactions, Influences and Issues

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.502.1 - 24.502.24



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Paper Authors


Michael Geoffrey Brown University of Michigan

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Michael is a second year doctoral student at the University of Michigan in Higher Education. His research interests focus on organizational communication and curriculum planning in post-secondary education.

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David B Knight Virginia Tech Department of Engineering Education Orcid 16x16

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David Knight is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education and affiliate faculty with the Higher Education Program at Virginia Tech. His research focuses on student learning outcomes in undergraduate engineering, interdisciplinary teaching and learning, organizational change in colleges and universities, and international issues in higher education.

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Engineering Practice in the Academic Plan: External Influences, Faculty, and their Teaching RolesPreparing undergraduates for the engineering workforce is one of the primary objectives ofundergraduate engineering programs, and creating instructional environments that bridgeengineering learning with engineering practice is of increasing importance. Because the work ofengineering faculty is situated in a complex sociocultural system varying across individuals,investigating how those differences relate to the practice of teaching could uncover importantinsights for changing conditions to enhance undergraduate student learning outcomes. Forexample, faculty members with extensive industry experience may emphasize different topics intheir classes or utilize a unique set of pedagogies relative to their colleagues who have alwaysworked within academic settings. Despite many efforts to align engineering education withengineering practice, little empirical work examines how professional practice might shape afaculty member’s teaching. This paper focuses on engineering faculty’s beliefs about teachingand explores how experience in industry either before or during an academic career shapes orinfluences faculty members’ pedagogical choices.Analyses draw on data from a national-scale study conducted in the United States and on asimilar study conducted in Australia. Both contexts seek to help students develop a set ofoutcomes identified jointly by external stakeholders (e.g., industry and government) and theacademy. The U.S. NSF-funded study includes 1,191 faculty members from a nationallyrepresentative sample of 31 institutions representing over 120 programs in seven engineeringdisciplines (biomedical/bioengineering, chemical, civil, electrical, general, industrial, andmechanical). Faculty members were surveyed about their teaching roles, their beliefs and valuesabout education, and how they organize their courses to achieve the Engineer of 2020 outcomes.The Australian study funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council sought to developan understanding of academic demography and views around research, teaching, and learning.The final usable sample consisted of 591 faculty members from 30 institutions, which represents16% of the entire nation’s engineering faculty members.To frame analyses and discussion, the paper uses the Academic Plan model, which posits thatinternal influences (on the unit and institutional levels) and external influences (e.g., marketforces, governmental bodies, disciplinary organizations) inform the decision making of facultyand administrators regarding course planning, instruction, and organization. Regression analysesinvestigate the direct effect of faculty members’ industry experience on educational conditions(instruction, curricular emphases, and assessments) and the mediating effect of an individual’sbeliefs about education, controlling for other variables identified by the Academic Plan.Results suggest that faculty with previous industry experience plan courses differently from theirpeers with academic trajectories, and their beliefs about the roles of the teacher and the purposesof curriculum are different. For example, faculty members with industry experience are morelikely to use active learning techniques and emphasize professional skills preparation and holisticstudent development in their courses. In addition to reporting results of each study, the papercompares the U.S. and Australian contexts to determine whether or not significant influencestranscend contexts and how each system might learn from one another.

Brown, M. G., & Knight, D. B. (2014, June), Engineering Practice in the Academic Plan: External Influences, Faculty, and Their Teaching Roles Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20393

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