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Factors that Influence Faculty Motivation of Effective Teaching Practices in Engineering

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

NSF Grantees' Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.590.1 - 23.590.11



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Paper Authors


Cynthia J. Finelli University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Cynthia Finelli is director of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching Engineering and research associate professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan. She actively pursues research in engineering education and assists other faculty at University of Michigan in their scholarly endeavors. Her current research interests include studying faculty motivation to change classroom practices, evaluating methods to improve teaching, and exploring ethical decision-making in undergraduate engineering students. Dr. Finelli leads a national initiative to create a taxonomy/keyword outline for the field of engineering education research, and she is past chair of the Educational Research and Methods Division of the American Society of Engineering Education.

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Kenyon M Richardson

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Kenyon Richardson is a program assistant and research assistant with the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching in Engineering at the University of Michigan. Currently, she is assisting with an NSF grant-funded study on faculty motivation to adopt effective classroom practices. She has a bachelor's degree in Anthropology and is interested in the use of computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software to interpret interviews and focus groups.

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Shanna R. Daly University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Shanna R. Daly is an assistant research scientist in Engineering Education, an adjunct assistant professor, teaching courses in design and creativity, and a program manager in the Center for Research in Learning and Teaching in Engineering at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on the investigation of design approaches and ideation, ethnography in design, foundations of innovation, creative processes, and engineering practitioners who return to academia for a Ph.D. Many of her studies involve multiple disciplinary professional and educational contexts and she often collaborates across disciplines, working with scholars in engineering, education, industrial design, and psychology.
She also brings a research lens to understanding how to support successful translation of educational research to practice, and conducts consultations and runs programs to support successful teaching and learning throughout the College of Engineering.

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Faculty Motivation to Adopt Effective Teaching Practices Engineering faculty’s adoption of effective teaching practices is discouragingly low at our large research university. We recently observed a random sample of 26 undergraduate, lecture‐based engineering classes and only 11 (42%) featured even one active learning exercise. When studied in five‐minute segments, just over one‐quarter of the segments (26%) included even a single student question. We lead faculty professional development activities at our college of engineering, and we are working to develop a college‐wide change plan to result in wider adoption of effective teaching practices, thereby transforming the student experience. This paper will describe a series of faculty focus groups we conducted to explore factors that influence faculty motivation to adopt effective teaching practices. These findings, in turn, guide the development of our institutional change plan. We use Eccles’ Expectancy Value Theory (EVT) of motivation as a framework for our research. Her theory posits that an individual’s motivation is influenced by both his/her expectancy of being able to succeed at the task and by the values he/she ascribes to completing it. In our context, we apply EVT to a faculty member’s motivation to adopt effective teaching practices. During our focus groups, we probed faculty’s expectancy (i.e., ability self‐concept and perception of task difficulty) and value (i.e., intrinsic value, utility value, attainment value, and cost) related to adopting effective teaching practices. Twenty‐six engineering full‐time faculty with a diverse range of rank, experience, discipline, and gender participated in the focus groups. After the focus group data were transcribed, we analyzed them for emergent themes which we subsequently categorized into each of the EVT constructs. For example, one commonly cited theme is that having ongoing and individually‐tailored support while learning how to adopt effective teaching practices could make it easier to apply those practices. We categorized this theme as “expectancy: task difficulty.” Another common theme is that removing the risk associated with trying (and potentially failing) a new teaching practice could motivate faculty to adopt that practice. We categorized this theme using the construct “value: cost.” In this paper, we describe our analysis method in detail, define the major themes, and present examples of key factors identified as influencing faculty motivation.  Our next steps involve designing a two‐part change plan for our college of engineering which leverages findings from the faculty focus groups. A faculty change plan, for instance, may recommend that faculty development efforts include ongoing and sustained interaction between faculty and experienced faculty developers. This could be one way to minimize task difficulty associated with adopting effective teaching practices. The change plan aimed at influencing the administration, on the other hand, may suggest policies provide a safe space for junior faculty as they learn about and adopt effective teaching practices. We conclude the paper with suggestions for applying these findings in other settings.  

Finelli, C. J., & Richardson, K. M., & Daly, S. R. (2013, June), Factors that Influence Faculty Motivation of Effective Teaching Practices in Engineering Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19604

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