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Faculty Perceptions of the Teaching and Learning Experience in Fundamental Mechanical Engineering Courses

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Mechanical Engineering Division Technical Session 7

Tagged Division

Mechanical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Michelle Soledad Virginia Tech, Ateneo de Davao University Orcid 16x16

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Michelle Soledad is a PhD candidate in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. Her research interests include faculty development and data-informed reflective practice. Ms. Soledad has degrees in Electrical Engineering (BS, ME) from the Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) in Davao City, Philippines, where she continues to be a faculty member of the Electrical Engineering Department. She also served as Department Chair and was a member of the University Research Council before pursuing doctoral studies. Prior to joining ADDU in 2008, Ms. Soledad was a Senior Team Lead for Accenture, where she worked on and managed systems maintenance and enhancement projects.

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Holly M. Matusovich Virginia Tech

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Dr. Matusovich is an Associate Professor in Virginia Tech’s Department of Engineering Education. She has her doctorate in Engineering Education and her strengths include qualitative and mixed methods research study design and implementation. She is/was PI/Co-PI on 10 funded research projects including a CAREER grant. She has won several Virginia Tech awards including a Dean’s Award for Outstanding New Faculty. Her research expertise includes using motivation and related frameworks to study student engagement in learning, recruitment and retention in engineering programs and careers, faculty teaching practices and intersections of motivation and learning strategies.

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Cheryl Carrico P.E. Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Cheryl Carrico is a research faculty member for Virginia Tech. Her current research focus relates to STEM career pathways (K-12 through early career) and conceptual understanding of core engineering principles. Dr. Carrico owns a research and consulting company specializing in research evaluations and industry consulting. Dr. Carrico received her B.S. in chemical engineering from Virginia Tech, Masters of Engineering from North Carolina State University, MBA from King University, and PhD in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech. Dr. Carrico is a certified project management professional (PMP) and licensed professional engineer (P.E.).

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Fundamental engineering courses serve as the foundation for advanced discipline-specific courses and are commonly required across multiple engineering programs. Students often take several of these courses concurrently based on their curriculum, during a period in their academic careers marked by personal, social, and academic challenges. Examples of these courses in mechanical engineering curricula are Dynamics, Heat Transfer, and Thermodynamics. Literature that explore these courses often describe low rates of student success and educational environments that conflict with the learning experience students value and expect; they are often taught in large classes with little faculty interaction. In fact, a critical factor that shapes the student learning experience is interaction with instructors as socializers in the academic environment. We focus on this notion to provide context for the learning experience in fundamental engineering courses, an important step before designing strategies to facilitate effective learning environments. Guided by Eccles’ expectancy value model of academic motivation, we explored faculty perspectives on facilitating learning in concept-heavy mechanical engineering courses. We used the role of instructors as socializers as embedded within Eccles’ model to guide our analysis. For this paper, we analyzed 3 purposefully-selected transcripts of semi-structured interviews, chosen from a dataset consisting of interview transcripts with 41 instructors of concept-heavy engineering courses from multiple disciplines and institutions across the United States, collected as part of a larger NSF-funded project. We chose mechanical engineering professors, who represented majority (44%) of the participants in the larger study. To account for variability of experiences within the discipline, we chose one professor each from the top two courses taught by participants (Thermodynamics, 29%; Heat Transfer, 24%) and the course taught by the least number of participants (Dynamics, 8%). We also ensured variability in class size (20-30, 24-39, 65-75) and institution type; participants included in the analysis taught in a R1, R2, and Baccalaureate College (arts & sciences focus), based on the Carnegie Classifications. Emergent themes include instructor beliefs about student interests, attitudes, values, and barriers that prevent students from making the most out of the learning process. We identified instructor values, aspirations, and the strategies that instructors employ to facilitate learning in fundamental engineering courses. From this sample, we found similarities in strategies (e.g., use of cognitive modeling) across participants. There were differences, however, in perceptions about student values and motivation between the instructor who taught a larger class in a larger institution and the instructor who taught in a smaller, specialized institution. Our descriptions of variations in the teaching experience according to class size and institution type may inform analysis of remaining transcript data using case study as research design. The codes and themes define the boundaries of teaching foundational engineering courses for a class size and institution type, representing a case. The case descriptions for other contexts generated by this future work may identify barriers to effective learning environments and inform the design of strategies to overcome challenges faced by instructors of fundamental engineering courses.

Soledad, M., & Matusovich, H. M., & Carrico, C. (2018, June), Faculty Perceptions of the Teaching and Learning Experience in Fundamental Mechanical Engineering Courses Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30512

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