June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
Educational Research and Methods
24.745.1 - 24.745.17
Individual, Organizational, and Extra-Organizational Influences on Engineering Instructors’ Emphasis on Interdisciplinarity in Undergraduate CoursesCalls for educational responses to scientific and technical problems often argue forinterdisciplinary thought and action, and the growth of interdisciplinary engineering courses andprograms suggests that the field is acknowledging its role in preparing students to developinterdisciplinary problem solutions and innovations. Today there is a vast literature oninterdisciplinarity in higher education, but empirical study of interdisciplinary education haslagged behind. Engineering education researchers are among the few exploring interdisciplinarycurricula, but to date, this research has focused on the experiences of students; few studiesconsider the role of engineering faculty in designing interdisciplinary educational experiencesthat will prepare students for interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. Our study addressesthis imbalance by investigating influences on faculty who teach interdisciplinary topics andskills.Research on college and university faculty (including engineering faculty) indicates that a varietyof individual, organizational, and external influences shape their thinking about their courses.Such studies reveal that the nature of these influences varies depending on the topics and skills tobe taught in a course. Using data from a multi-institution study, we examine the influence of anarray of individual, organizational, and extra-organizational (external) factors on instructors’emphasis on interdisciplinary knowledge and skills in their undergraduate courses. The“academic plan model” that serves as the conceptual framework for the study identifies theessential parts of a curriculum design process (e.g., selection of content and instructionalmethods) and suggests a variety of factors that may shape course design.Our data come from 1,192 engineering faculty (tenured and tenure-eligible) and instructors (full-time, non-tenure line) from 31 U.S. colleges and universities and 7 engineering subdisciplineswho were surveyed as part of a larger study funded by the National Science Foundation. Thatstudy also collected data from undergraduates and alumni, program chairs, and associate deans toexamine the curricular, instructional, co-curricular, and organizational conditions that promotestudent learning of interdisciplinary competence (as well as design and problem-solving skillsand contextual competence). Using multiple regression techniques, we analyze the role of threesets of independent variables -- 1) instructors’ individual characteristics (e.g., gender, rank) andexperiences (e.g., industry experience, participation in professional development); 2)organizational features (e.g., program culture, college reward structures), and 3) externalinfluences (e.g., engineering education reports) -- on faculty and instructors’ reports of theemphasis they place on a variety of interdisciplinary topics and skills in courses they regularlyteach (the dependent variable).Our findings will contribute to the literature on interdisciplinary education by 1) providing aportrait of interdisciplinary undergraduate engineering courses (topics and skills included andlevels of emphasis on each) derived from a national sample of engineering faculty andinstructors, and 2) identifying the individual, organizational and external factors that influencefaculty and instructors’ emphasis on these interdisciplinary topics and skills. The findings willalso inform our subsequent analyses, which will explore how the salient factors identified hereinfluence engineering students’ educational experiences and students’ levels of interdisciplinarycompetence.
Lattuca, L. R., & Knight, D. B., & Brown, M. G. (2014, June), Influences on Engineering Instructors’ Emphasis on Interdisciplinarity in Undergraduate Courses Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20637
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