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Innovation through Propagation: Pathways to Studying Engineering, Retention and Diversifying the Learning Community

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Works in Progress: Innovation Through Propagation

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Susan M. Lord University of San Diego

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Susan M. Lord received a B.S. from Cornell University and the M.S. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. She is currently Professor and Chair of Electrical Engineering at the University of San Diego. Her teaching and research interests include electronics, optoelectronics, materials science, first year engineering courses, feminist and liberative pedagogies, engineering student persistence, and student autonomy. Her research has been sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Dr. Lord is a fellow of the ASEE and IEEE and is active in the engineering education community including serving as General Co-Chair of the 2006 Frontiers in Education (FIE) Conference, on the FIE Steering Committee, and as President of the IEEE Education Society for 2009-2010. She is an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Education. She and her coauthors were awarded the 2011 Wickenden Award for the best paper in the Journal of Engineering Education and the 2011 Best Paper Award for the IEEE Transactions on Education. In Spring 2012, Dr. Lord spent a sabbatical at Southeast University in Nanjing, China teaching and doing research.

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

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Denise R. Simmons, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Myers-Lawson School of Construction and in the Civil & Environmental Engineering Department, and an affiliate faculty of the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. She holds a B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in civil engineering and a graduate certificate in engineering education – all from Clemson University. Until 2012, she was the director of the Savannah River Environmental Sciences Field Station. Dr. Simmons has nearly fourteen years of engineering and project management experience working with public utility companies, a project management consulting company, and a software company. She is a registered professional engineer, project management professional and LEED accredited professional. Her career vision is to become a global leader in research that builds capacity and broadens the participation of students completing construction and engineering degrees and entering the technological workforce by shaping practices and policies in retention, informal learning, pedagogy, professional competency, workforce development and life-long learning. Her research interests are in investigating students’ development of leadership skills and other professional competencies and in students' involvement in curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. Dr. Simmons is a NSF CAREER award recipient for her research entitled, “Investigating Co-Curricular Participation of Students Underrepresented in Engineering” and a recently funded NSF award entitled “Preparing a 21st Century STEM Workforce: Defining & Measuring Leadership in Engineering Education” focused on the construction industry. Dr. Simmons is also a 2016 recipient of the College of Engineering Dean's Award for Outstanding New Assistant Professor and the Black Graduate Student Organization's ​​Lisa Tabor Award for Community Service.

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Larry J. Shuman University of Pittsburgh Orcid 16x16

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Larry J. Shuman is Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Distinguished Service Professor of industrial engineering at the Swanson School of Engineering, University of Pittsburgh. His research focuses on improving the
engineering education experience with an emphasis on assessment of design and problem solving, and the study of the ethical behavior of engineers and engineering managers. A former Senior Editor of the Journal of Engineering Education, Shuman is the Founding Editor of Advances in Engineering Education. He has published widely in engineering education literature, and is co-author of Engineering Ethics: Balancing Cost, Schedule and Risk - Lessons Learned from the Space Shuttle (Cambridge University Press). He received his Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University in Operations Research and a B.S.E.E. from the University of Cincinnati. Dr. Shuman is an ASEE Fellow.

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This work-in-progress paper is part of the Innovation through Propagation Round Table Discussion session.

Motivation and Background: A series of blue ribbon reports has laid out a challenge for engineering education, raising awareness for both what is needed to change and the context (e.g., K12 versus higher education). As documented in a 2012 ASEE also lacking is successful propagation, including a challenge to funding agencies to better exert their role in the propagation of proven successful efforts. That is, propagation should not be simply the dissemination component of research, but also part of the research. Sponsored by the National Science foundation, this is one of three commissioned papers that are focused on developing a research agenda for engineering education focused on propagating documented innovations. As such it addresses four major questions concerning the pathways to studying engineering, retention and diversifying:

1. What accomplishments have been produced to date? What new innovations have occurred over the past one to one-in-half decades that have lasting value in engineering education?

2. To what extent have innovations been propagated? Have meta-analyses of certain funded innovations across the key areas gleaned useful understanding of how propagation has or has not occurred?

3. What remains to be done? What are the gaps in the research? What are potential root causes as to why the particular innovations have not proliferated across engineering schools?

4. How best can future work be propagated? What type of research agenda is needed over the next five to ten years to facilitate that innovations in engineering education spread across different types of engineering schools, engineering disciplines and engineering coursework? What evidence is required to document a successful innovation?

Methods At the 2015 ASEE session, the results of a Delphi study were presented, and additions and critiques from the over 75 participants were sought. From the Delphi study results, three writing teams, each addressing a critical area (learning in and out of the classroom, pipeline, and technology), have been commissioned. The initial findings of the writing teams were presented at a workshop with leading engineering education researchers (October 2015). The workshop has enabled the writing teams to refine and redefine their ideas based on the multiple perspectives of the participants. Consequently, at the ASEE 2016 national meeting the teams will be presenting their working drafts which will be included in the Proceedings.

Anticipated Results Themes that the paper will address include how best to: • study the root causes of why engineering remains a primary white, male field; identify institutions that have successfully broken the stereotype and determine how they did it

• identify and study those engineering schools and programs that have made substantial progress in increasing under-represented student populations and determine their best practices

• initiate and synthesize engineering education research focused on the "neglected" cohorts (e.g., LGBTQA, disabled, low income)

• determine why certain engineering fields are more attractive to under-represented cohorts

• examine the culture and faculty attitudes of those engineering areas that are least diversified and those that are highly diversified in order to identify best practices and incentives for changing the culture and climate as a first step of increasing the pipeline

Significance As stated above, this project is funded by the NSF to develop a roadmap for engineering education research and the propagation of that research with the potential of becoming a national agenda To most effectively accomplish this, it is necessary to capture needs and potential solutions through a number of different approaches that actively involve the larger engineering education community. This will be the fifth step in that process; the first three being: a Delphi study with subject matter experts from across the research and administrative spectrum, a highly interactive session at the ASEE 2015 Conference, and an invited workshop with recognized leaders in the field participating, and YouTube videos regarding the results to date (spring 2016) for wide distribution and comment. This special session will provide another needed opportunity to bring together a large, diverse body of interested engineering faculty, educational researchers and administrators from which to obtain serious feedback on the substantial findings that will be presented. Placing the three papers in a regular session would fragment the project substantially, not allowing for 1.) “promoting” this evolving agenda, 2.) engaging the broader engineering education community, nor 3.) examining the three critical areas in a gestalt manner.

Lord, S. M., & Simmons, D. R., & Shuman, L. J. (2016, June), Innovation through Propagation: Pathways to Studying Engineering, Retention and Diversifying the Learning Community Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25709

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