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Identifying Features of Engineering Academic Units that Influence Teaching and Learning Improvement

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Conference

2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016

ISBN

978-0-692-68565-5

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

Faculty Development I: Attitudes Towards Teaching

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count

13

DOI

10.18260/p.25523

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/25523

Download Count

89

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Paper Authors

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Kathleen Quardokus Fisher Oregon State University

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Dr. Kathleen Quardokus Fisher is a postdoctoral scholar at Oregon State University. She is currently participating in a project that supports the use of evidence-based instructional practices in undergraduate STEM courses through developing communities of practice. Her research interests focus on understanding how organizational change occurs in higher education with respect to teaching and learning in STEM courses.

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Christina Smith Oregon State University

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Christina Smith is a graduate student in the School of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University. She received her B.S. from the University of Utah in chemical engineering and is pursuing her Ph.D. also in chemical engineering with an emphasis on engineering education. Her research focuses on how the beliefs of graduate students around teaching and learning interact with and influence the environments in which they are asked to teach.

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Ann Sitomer Oregon State University

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Ann earned a PhD in mathematics education from Portland State University in 2014. Her dissertation examined the informal ways of reasoning about ratio, rate and proportion that adult returning students bring to an arithmetic review class and how these ways of thinking interacted with the curriculum. Other research interests include teachers’ professional noticing of learners’ mathematical thinking and organizational change. Ann works on both the implementation and research sides of the ESTEME@OSU project.

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John Ivanovitch Oregon State University

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I am a third year doctoral student studying organizational change and science education at the collegiate level. My education includes a BA in cell and molecular Biology and a MSc. in integrated biochemistry/microbiology. Prior to entering the Doctoral program at Oregon State University I worked for over a decade as a biomedical researcher, with projects ranging from biochemistry to molecular virology. My current education research interests include transdisciplinary integration of STEM, and teaching-related cultures at the micro-, meso- and macro levels (i.e., discipline, departmental, institutional).

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Jana Bouwma-Gearhart Oregon State University

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Jana L. Bouwma-Gearhart is an associate professor of STEM education at Oregon State University. Her research widely concerns improving education at research universities. Her earlier research explored enhancements to faculty motivation to improve undergraduate education. Her more recent research concerns organizational change towards postsecondary STEM education improvement at research universities, including the interactions of levers (people, organizations, policy, initiatives) of change and documenting the good, hard work required across disciplinary boundaries to achieve meaningful change in STEM education.

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Milo Koretsky Oregon State University

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Milo Koretsky is a Professor of Chemical Engineering at Oregon State University. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from UC San Diego and his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley, all in Chemical Engineering. He currently has research activity in areas related engineering education and is interested in integrating technology into effective educational practices and in promoting the use of higher-level cognitive skills in engineering problem solving. His research interests particularly focus on what prevents students from being able to integrate and extend the knowledge developed in specific courses in the core curriculum to the more complex, authentic problems and projects they face as professionals. Dr. Koretsky is one of the founding members of the Center for Lifelong STEM Education Research at OSU.

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Abstract

In this research paper, we use case study analysis to identify the features of three academic engineering departments at a research-doctoral university that influence the improvement of teaching and learning. Calls for improvement in engineering education, and broader STEM education, have identified the teaching practices of many faculty members as a weakness in higher education that leads to poor student achievement. Despite the evidence of the effectiveness of certain teaching practices (e.g., active learning), many faculty members rely heavily on didactic lecturing and rote memorization assessment. Faculty choice of teaching practices is influenced by individual characteristics, such as personal commitment to improving teaching, as well as the institutional characteristics of academic departments. Academic departments influence teaching choices because they provide (or withhold) external incentives and support for change in teaching practices, including resources, rewards, social acceptance, and job descriptions. Thus, change initiatives should assess these features prior to commencing. This assessment should lead to the development of change strategies to support individual and institutional characteristics that promote the use of evidence-based instructional practices.

Prior to the start of a university-wide change initiative, we focus on identifying the features of three engineering academic departments that are likely to influence improvement in teaching practices. This research was guided by two questions: (a) Within a doctoral-research institution, what are the characteristics of three engineering academic departments and of individuals within an academic department that influence the improvement of teaching and learning? (b) Using a conceptual framework that attends to the contextual and individual factors, what strategies do these identified features suggest a change agent should privilege when designing change initiative activities for these departments?

This study is part of a larger case study of the engineering departments. The data sources included in the case study are a survey of department members, interviews with administrators and educators, and classroom observations. This study focuses on the analysis of the survey of department members. In this survey, respondents were asked to identify expectations and practices at different levels of perspective (individual, classroom, and department), which influence teaching and learning improvement. This study describes these expectations and practices, and identifies change strategies according to these findings. Results indicate that both potentially positive and negative features for promoting change are present in the departments. For example, at the individual level, while educators report being dedicated to improving their practice, few educators report regularly enacting research confirmed practices in their classroom. In this context, an appropriate change strategy might inform instructors about what type of activities could fulfill their commitment to improving their teaching, rather than trying to demonstrate the need for constant improvement. These results highlight the need to connect change strategies to the context of a department, classroom, and individual.

Quardokus Fisher, K., & Smith, C., & Sitomer, A., & Ivanovitch, J., & Bouwma-Gearhart, J., & Koretsky, M. (2016, June), Identifying Features of Engineering Academic Units that Influence Teaching and Learning Improvement Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25523

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: © 2016 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