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Faculty Development Using Virtual Communities of Practice

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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

23.594.1 - 23.594.17



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Paper Authors


Russell Pimmel University of Alabama (Emeritus)

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Dr. Russell Pimmel has degrees from St Louis University and Iowa State University. He has held faculty positions at Ohio State University, University of North Carolina, University of Missouri, and University of Alabama and engineering positions at Emerson Electric, Battelle Northwest, McDonnell-Douglas, and the National Science Foundation. His research interests focus on interactive pedagogies and faculty development.

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Ann F. McKenna Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus

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Dr. Ann F. McKenna is chair and associate professor in the Department of Engineering in the College of Technology and Innovation at Arizona State University (ASU). Prior to joining ASU she served as a program officer at the National Science Foundation in the Division of Undergraduate Education and was on the faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Segal Design Institute at Northwestern University. Dr. McKenna received her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Mechanical Engineering from Drexel University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. McKenna also serves as a senior associate editor for the Journal of Engineering Education.

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Norman L. Fortenberry American Society for Engineering Education

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Dr. Norman L. Fortenberry is the executive director of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), an international society of individual, institutional, and corporate members founded in 1893. ASEE is committed to furthering education in engineering and engineering technology by promoting global excellence in engineering and engineering technology instruction, research, public service, professional practice, and societal awareness. Previously, Fortenberry served as the founding director of the Center for the Advancement of Scholarship on Engineering Education (CASEE) at the National Academy of Engineering (NAE). He served in various executive roles at the National Science Foundation (NSF) including as senior advisor to the NSF assistant director for Education and Human Resources and as director of the divisions of undergraduate education and human resource development. Fortenberry has also served as executive director of the National Consortium for Graduate Degrees for Minorities in Engineering and Science, Inc. (The GEM Consortium) and as a faculty member in the department of mechanical engineering at the Florida A&M University–Florida State University College of Engineering. Dr. Fortenberry was awarded the S.B., S.M., and Sc.D. degrees (all in mechanical engineering) by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Brian Yoder

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Rocio C Chavela Guerra American Society for Engineering Education

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An extensive series of national reports has described a continuing need for advancement inengineering education by adopting research-based approaches. The short-term, one-shot, face-to-face faculty workshops will not meet this need because they are inherently flawed and notscalable and so a new faculty professional development model is essential for the success ofthese efforts. This project deals with a critical problem by developing a sustainable, economical,and effective mechanism for helping faculty members understand and implement research-basedinstruction approaches. The approach builds on the existing face-to-face faculty developmentmodels, on the engaging community of practice models, and on the rapidly developing andincreasingly accepted web-based social networking and content management tools. The model,referred to as the virtual community of practice (VCP) model, engages communities of 20 to 30faculty members over two semesters through regularly scheduled Internet-based session as theywork collaboratively to develop the knowledge and skills required for using these newinstructional approaches and to provide the support and encouragement needed to sustain theirimplementation efforts. In the first round, the project is focusing on the introductory engineeringscience courses: electric circuits, mechanics, thermodynamics, digital systems, and chemicalprocesses. Co-leaders for these faculty oriented VCPs are members of another leadership VCPthat is operating to prepare and support them as they guide their course area VCPs.The project’s research and evaluation effort is designed to investigate two issues: (1) theinvolvement and satisfaction of the VCP participants and (2) the relationship between thecharacteristics of the VCPs and the changes in the participants’ instructional activities. Tounderstand the first issue we are using web metrics of participation and embedded surveys tocollect feedback on usefulness of the VCPs. We are collecting and analyzing: meeting agendas,meeting minutes/notes, participant satisfaction surveys, participant/attendee list, and self-reportsurveys assesses faculty changes towards using research-based instructional approaches. Forthe second issue, we are collecting qualitative measures that enable more in-depth exploration ofthe nature of virtual participation, and the potential impact of the VCP on faculty teachingpractices. In order to characterize participation in the VCP, and potential impact on facultyteaching practices, we will collect and analyze course syllabi, before and after participation,entries in journal logs that include faculty reflections on defining learning outcomes, andapproaches to instruction and assessment, course materials including syllabi, and follow-upinterviews with a representative sample of VCP participants.In this study, we are taking a “theory-driven approach” in which we explicate a “theory of change”and investigate how the program contributes to intended or observed outcomes (i.e., what factorssupport and inhibit faculty changing their instructional activities). The theory of change is basedon Rogers’ model for the diffusion on innovations. Rogers’ model includes the five stages: (1)Awareness—Awareness of the innovation, but lacking complete information about it; (2)Interest—Growing interest and information seeking; (3) Evaluation—Decision whether or not totry innovation based on present and future situation; (4) Trial—Making use of the innovation; (5)Adoption—Continued full use of the innovation. The project will start collecting data in the Winter2013 Semester and will have a complete set of data by the end of that semester.

Pimmel, R., & McKenna, A. F., & Fortenberry, N. L., & Yoder, B., & Chavela Guerra, R. C. (2013, June), Faculty Development Using Virtual Communities of Practice Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19608

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