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Examining Relationships and Patterns in Pedagogical Beliefs, Attitudes, and Classroom Practices for Faculty of Undergraduate Engineering, Math, and Science Foundational Courses

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

First-year Programs Division Technical Session 8: Project-based Learning and Cornerstone Courses

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.704.1 - 26.704.22



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Paper Authors


James A Middleton Arizona State University

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James A. Middleton is Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering and Director of the Center for Research on Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology at Arizona State University. For the last three years he also held the Elmhurst Energy Chair in STEM education at the University of Birmingham in the UK. Prior to these appointments, Dr. Middleton served as Associate Dean for Research for the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education at Arizona State University for 3 years, and as Director of the Division of Curriculum and Instruction for another 3 years. He received his Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1992, where he also served in the National Center for Research on Mathematical Sciences Education as a postdoctoral scholar for 3 years.

Jim’s research interests focus in the following areas where he has published extensively: Children’s mathematical thinking; Teacher and Student motivation in mathematics; and Teacher Change in mathematics. He is currently developing methodologies for utilizing the engineering design process to improve learning environments in Science, Engineering and Mathematics. He has also written on effective uses of educational technology in mathematics and science education as a natural outgrowth of these interests. To fund his research, Jim has garnered over $20 million in grants to study and improve mathematics education in urban schools. He just finished a $1.8 million research grant to model the longitudinal development of fractions, rational number and proportional reasoning knowledge and skills in middle school students, and is currently engaged in a project studying the sustainability of changes in urban elementary teachers’ mathematics practices. All of his work has been conducted in collaborative partnerships with diverse, economically challenged, urban schools. This relationship has resulted in a significant (positive) impact on the direction that partner districts have taken, including a significant increase in mathematics achievement in the face of a rising poverty rate.

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Stephen J Krause Arizona State University

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Stephen Krause is professor in the Materials Science Program in the Fulton School of Engineering at Arizona State University. He teaches in the areas of introductory materials engineering, polymers and composites, and capstone design. His research interests include evaluating conceptual knowledge, misconceptions and technologies to promote conceptual change. He has co-developed a Materials Concept Inventory and a Chemistry Concept Inventory for assessing conceptual knowledge and change for introductory materials science and chemistry classes. He is currently conducting research on NSF projects in two areas. One is studying how strategies of engagement and feedback with support from internet tools and resources affect conceptual change and associated impact on students' attitude, achievement, and persistence. The other is on the factors that promote persistence and success in retention of undergraduate students in engineering. He was a coauthor for best paper award in the Journal of Engineering Education in 2013.

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Kendra Rae Beeley


Eugene Judson Arizona State University Orcid 16x16

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Eugene Judson is an Associate Professor of for the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. His past experiences include having been a middle school science teacher, Director of Academic and Instructional Support for the Arizona Department of Education, a research scientist for the Center for Research on Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology (CRESMET), and an evaluator for several NSF projects. His first research strand concentrates on the relationship between educational policy and STEM education. This provides policymakers and the educational community an improved understanding of how changes in educational policies impact STEM teaching and learning. His second research strand focuses on studying STEM classroom interactions and subsequent effects on student understanding.

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John Ernzen


Ying-Chih Chen Arizona State University

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Ying-Chih Chen is an assistant professor in the Division of Teacher Preparation at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.

His research takes two distinct but interrelated paths focused on elementary students’ learning in science and engineering as well as in-service science teachers’ professional development. The first focus involves how language as a learning tool improves students’ conceptual understandings, literacy, and representation competencies in science. His second research focus is on how in-service teachers develop their knowledge for teaching science and engineering in argument-based inquiry classrooms. This research is aimed at developing measures of teachers’ Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) for adopting the argument-based inquiry approach, as well as developing tools to capture the interactive nature of PCK.

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Examining Relationships and Patterns in Pedagogical Beliefs, Attitudes and Classroom Practices for Faculty of Undergraduate Engineering, Math and Science Foundational CoursesResearch shows that faculty may hold beliefs about teaching that, in the ideal, are learner-centered, but in reality their practice may be teacher-centered due to constraints such as classsize, time, technology and their beliefs about students’ abilities (citation). This study examinesthe relationship between the pedagogical beliefs and practices of faculty teaching requiredfreshman courses for engineering students.The study utilized four data collection methods: faculty interviews, faculty surveys, observationprotocol scores and qualitative classroom observations. Eight different courses across fourdepartments (2 Engineering, 2 Mathematics, 2 Physics, and 2 Chemistry) were chosen for thestudy. Individual sections observed were randomly selected. A total of eight semi-structured one-hour interviews were conducted. The interviews consisted of twenty-four questions focusing ontopics of teaching practices, teaching environment, course and departmental policies, self anddepartmental evaluations, and departmental and interdepartmental collaboration. In addition tothe interview, each instructor completed a twenty-two item revised edition of the Approaches toTeaching Inventory survey to measure the faculty perceptions about their own teaching. For eachcourse, three classroom observations were conducted for a total of 24 classroom observations.The Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) was used after each observation toidentify specific teaching practices and examine their relationship with the interview and surveyresponses. In addition, ethnographic field notes were gathered during each course observationincluding details about class environment, linguistic and communal practices, and studentactions/reactions to instructor moves.The faculty interviews revealed several common beliefs across faculty and across collegedepartments including the identification of specific impediments to student success. Forexample, many faculty members shared the belief that their students come into class with gaps infoundational knowledge and their course is not adaptable for catching them up. Overall, teachingdelivery and environment was inconsistent from department to department. In our small butrepresentative sample, the Engineering department and the Mathematics department had the mostintradepartmental consistency in their teaching delivery and environment. Classroomenvironments included small classrooms with tables, workshops, small lecture halls and largelecture halls. Instruction delivery ranged from mostly lecture with pauses for questions in one ofthe physics classes, to shared problem solving in one of the mathematics classes, to student ledactivities in engineering. Student interactions with each other during class ranged from verylittle, particularly in the large lecture halls, to almost constant collaboration in classes withlaboratory formats. In general, lectures were “traditional” with instructor having the majority ofthe speaking time. How engaging each instructor made the “traditional” lecture varied greatlydepending on the use of visuals and/or demonstrations, the pace of instruction and amount ofinformation covered, use of humor, body language, kinds of questions asked to the class,willingness of students to ask questions, and frequency of questions asked to students. Therelationships between each individual’s beliefs and practices were seen to be impacted in part bythe context within which the faculty member worked. The interviews, surveys and observationsreveal that the class and college context greatly impacts teaching behavior, even when facultypresent with more learner-centered attitudes. Thus, department culture and norms (includingphysical plant, available technology, common finals, etc.) constrain what even well-intentionedand informed faculty can do within boundaries set by these norms. Some attempt to collaborateacross departments and develop shared goals for courses engineering students take, and theexpectations for their learning environments seems like a fruitful next step in our evolution.

Middleton, J. A., & Krause, S. J., & Beeley, K. R., & Judson, E., & Ernzen, J., & Chen, Y. (2015, June), Examining Relationships and Patterns in Pedagogical Beliefs, Attitudes, and Classroom Practices for Faculty of Undergraduate Engineering, Math, and Science Foundational Courses Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24041

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015