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Journal Clubs As Pedagogy For Interdisciplinary Graduate Education

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Emerging Issues in Engineering Education Research and Pedagogy

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.822.1 - 13.822.11



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Paper Authors


Maura Borrego Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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MAURA BORREGO is an assistant professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. Dr. Borrego holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Stanford University. Her current research interests center around interdisciplinary collaboration in engineering and engineering education, including studies of the collaborative relationships between engineers and education researchers. Investigations of interdisciplinary graduate programs nationwide are funded through her NSF CAREER award.

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Lynita Newswander Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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LYNITA K. NEWSWANDER is a Ph.D. student in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech. She also holds master's degrees in English and Political Science from Virginia Tech. Her current research interests are interdisciplinary and reside at the intersection of theory and the empirical aesthetic.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Journal Clubs as Pedagogy for Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Abstract

This paper explores the idea of the journal club as an alternative pedagogy that can help to prepare engineering graduate students for academic and professional life, particularly in interdisciplinary settings. A journal club is a group of graduate students and faculty members which meets regularly to discuss recent journal articles in a specified area of research. Members take turns selecting articles and leading critical discussion of the work. Journal clubs are one method for preparing graduate students for professional life on a number of levels: (1) they familiarize the student to the latest research, methods, and publication trends, (2) they facilitate dialogue and critique among students and professors at all levels of experience, and (3) they allow a space for consideration of interdisciplinary concepts that might not be satisfied by classroom discussions or lab experience alone. We used literature from the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate and theory of Communities of Practice to frame our study of an interdisciplinary engineering journal club. Systematic analysis of qualitative field notes and transcripts reveals that these benefits are indeed transferable to engineering and that journal clubs serve purposes which may not be met by other aspects of graduate education.

I. Introduction

Graduate education in engineering aims to prepare the student for professional and/or academic life through experiential research and critical engagement in the classroom. As the demand for engineers trained to work in ill-structured environments increases, traditional pedagogical methods need to be revisited. What worked well for one generation of students may not be adequate for the preparation of today’s engineering graduates who must be increasingly innovative and adaptive1,2. Engineering education endeavors to match the best students with the best learning techniques, and must also be creative in adapting and adopting new pedagogical methods.

Other disciplines can be one of the best resources for engineering educators looking for new teaching techniques to fit the unique demands on today’s engineers. Because they are also technical fields, the sciences can be a fitting source. Like engineers, scientists are required to know not only their material, but current trends in research, methods, and publication. One way that some of the sciences prepare students for the rigors of real-world research is through journal clubs. These clubs are generally groups of students and professors at varying levels of experience who meet regularly to discuss articles written around a certain topic. Each week, a different member of the group leads the discussion on a different journal article, which has been circulated to and read by the entire group. Journal clubs often include members with different areas of expertise, and perhaps even different disciplinary backgrounds. The result is that the conversation is rich, students learn the skills of critical analysis through participation, and they become comfortable with not only the daunting prospect of publishing and peer-reviews, but also with professional presentation.

Borrego, M., & Newswander, L. (2008, June), Journal Clubs As Pedagogy For Interdisciplinary Graduate Education Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3665

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