Asee peer logo

Faculty Ways of Knowing, Valuing, and Assessing Leadership in the Undergraduate Engineering Curriculum

Download Paper |


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

Assessment of Engineering Leadership Development

Tagged Division

Engineering Leadership Development

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Denise Rutledge Simmons P.E. Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Denise R. Simmons, Ph.D., PE, LEED-AP, is an assistant professor in the Myers-Lawson School of Construction and in the Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering, and an affiliate faculty of the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. She holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in civil engineering and a graduate certificate in engineering education – all from Clemson University. She has over 10 years of experience working for energy companies and as a project management consultant. Her research contributes to the advancement of labor and personnel issues in engineering broadly and specifically in the construction industry through two research areas: untangling the complex relationship between activities people become involved in — operationalized as engagement — and the technical and professional outcomes gained — operationalized as competencies. The broader impact of this work lies in achieving and sustaining productive, diverse and inclusive project organizations composed of engaged, competent people. Dr. Simmons’ research is supported by awards from NSF, including a CAREER award. She oversees the Simmons Research Lab (, which is home to a dynamic, interdisciplinary mix of undergraduate and graduate students and a post-doctoral researcher from various colleges and departments at Virginia Tech who work together to explore engineering and construction human centered issues with an emphasis on understanding difference and disparity.

visit author page

author page

Nicholas Anthony Clegorne

author page

Cassandra J McCall Virginia Tech

Download Paper |


Faculty serve as arbiters of disciplinary knowledge who, through the engineering curriculum, translate and deliver to engineering students the knowledge and skills necessitated by engineering industry. Through pedagogical practices, assessment strategies, and course content, faculty are inherently communicating to students what are considered to be important skills and knowledge in engineering. These skills tend to be skewed toward many of the technical competencies, which are well-defined and easily conceptualized within a course, thus placing an emphasis on technical competencies for emerging engineers. However, professional skills such as leadership are often ill-defined, complex, and misunderstood, leaving many faculty to place less of an emphasis on leadership development in their course and inherently, to students entering the field of engineering. This relationship may point to a reason why research consistently shows that engineering students lack necessary leadership skills to succeed in industry. To enhance student leadership development within the engineering curriculum, the construct of leadership must become well defined and communicated and faculty conceptualizations of leadership must be identified.

The study is a part of a larger multi-institutional, mixed methods research project examining the definition of leadership from the perspectives of industry, faculty and students in order to identify common and misconceptions. In this paper, we seek to gain an initial understanding of the intersections of faculty knowledge and value of engineering leadership by asking the overarching research question: How do faculty come to know leadership within engineering education? As part of a larger study exploring definitions of leadership across students, faculty, and industry professionals, the results from this analysis - as well as findings that warrant further inquiry - will be used to develop a semi-structured interview protocol to guide faculty interviews in subsequent phases of the larger project. Specifically, the survey items probe their ways of knowing and awareness of the value employers place on leadership, when leadership should be taught to students, and how leadership should be assessed in a course. Faculty perception of the value employers place on leadership is compared against survey results from employers. The analysis reveals more questions than answers. While an initial profile of faculty perceptions of leadership could be identified from the data, few patterns emerged that could serve as relational indicators across dimensions, revealing nuance among items that warrant further exploration. Subsequent interviews, as informed by this preliminary study, will further explore topics such as perceptions of faculty role in teaching leadership and effective sources of faculty leadership education and development; and contribute to ongoing conversations surrounding faculty beliefs and pedagogical content and practice.

Simmons, D. R., & Clegorne, N. A., & McCall, C. J. (2018, June), Faculty Ways of Knowing, Valuing, and Assessing Leadership in the Undergraduate Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30513

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: © 2018 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