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Learning in Context: Recognizing Challenges and Rewards of Engineering Curriculum Reform

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Persistence and Retention II: Curricular Issues

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1004.1 - 22.1004.16



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Paper Authors


Alison A. Dingwall Howard University

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Alison Dingwall is a Ph.D. candidate in Social Psychology at Howard University. She earned a Masters in Public Health from The George Washington University and a Master of Science in ocial psychology from Howard University. Her baccalaureate studies were completed at American University. Ms. Dingwall is a graduate research assistant with the Department of Civil Engineering at Howard University. Her research interests include engineering education, social rejection and program evaluation.

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Lorraine N. Fleming Howard University

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Lorraine N. Fleming is a Professor of Civil Engineering at Howard University and a Carnegie Scholar. She served as a Co-Principal Investigator of the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE). Dr. Fleming earned her Ph.D. in civil engineering from the University of California at Berkeley and holds a Master of Science and Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from George Washington University and Howard University, respectively. Dr. Fleming’s research interest is concentrated on the reform of engineering education, broadening participation in engineering and the scholarship of teaching and learning.

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Robin Adams Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Robin S. Adams is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She led the Institute for Scholarship on Engineering Education (ISEE) as part of the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE). Dr. Adams received her Ph.D. in Education, Leadership and Policy Studies from the University of Washington, an M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Washington, and a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Dr. Adams’ research is concentrated in four interconnecting areas: cross-disciplinary thinking, acting, and being; design cognition and learning; views on the nature of engineering knowledge; and theories of change in linking engineering education research and practice.

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Junaid A. Siddiqui Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Junaid Siddiqui is a doctoral student at the School of Engineering Education, Purdue University. Before joining the doctoral program he worked for nine years at the faculty development office of King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals (KFUPM), Saudi Arabia. In this role he was involved in several faculty development activities, particularly working with the faculty members for exploring the use of web-based technologies in the support of classroom teaching. He received his MS in Civil Engineering from KFUPM while he has also earned an MPBL degree from Aalborg University, Denmark. His research focus during his doctoral studies is on institutional and faculty development in engineering education.

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Learning in Context: Recognizing Challenges and Rewards of Engineering Curriculum ReformThis paper examines the experiences of engineering faculty from five institutions as they engagein a yearlong curriculum development project which began with an instructional workshop. Theworkshop was an intense three-day experience in curriculum design and assessment practiceswith a two-day follow-up session. The goals of the workshop were to develop the participants’capacity in using research in engineering education and student learning to design and implementinnovative curriculum for undergraduates with an emphasis on the National Academy ofEngineering (NAE) Engineer of 2020 attributes, while also supporting peer to peer, cross-institutional and consultant collaborations.The workshop evaluation focuses on participants’ professional development and their curriculumdesign and implementation. Workshop evaluation data consist of participant surveys, evaluatorobservations, focus groups and follow-up interviews. This paper centers on the personal andinstitutional challenges and rewards of curriculum development identified during structuredfocus groups.During the workshop, participants received instruction and feedback from nationally- recognizedexperts in engineering education. Facilitators at the workshop included curriculum developers,engineering faculty, and consultants with expertise in alternative models of curriculum andknowledge of the NAE Engineer of 2020 attributes. The Engineer of 2020 must be prepared toundertake leadership roles, possess creativity, ingenuity, and communication skills and maintainhigh ethical standards. While learning to incorporate these attributes into an engineeringcurriculum, participants engaged in individual and collaborative inquiry on identifyingconstraints, strategies, and supports to transforming curriculum, resulting in innovativecurriculum design.Through focus group discussions, researcher obtained a diverse perspective of the participants’workshop experience. Fifteen participants were assigned randomly to one of two focus groupswith each session lasting for approximately sixty minutes. Sample questions included, “How isthe workshop pushing you to think in new ways?”, “How do you hope your curriculum projectwill impact your institution?” and “With what curriculum ideas or issues are you struggling?”Data was analyzed using grounded theory methodology and the use of NVIVO software.Emergent results provided researchers with an insider’s perspective of the challenges andconcerns of engineering educators. Data revealed that faculty from diverse institutions hadsimilar experiences and perceptions about curriculum reform, though, some issues wereinstitution specific. In some instances, participants expressed concern about integrating a newcurriculum into departments, or the institution as a whole; in other cases, they reflected uponpossible problematic practices and personal competences.Four reoccurring themes related to curriculum development emerged from the focus groups.First is the challenge of incorporating diverse pedagogy into educating engineers considering thevaried grading structures, level of student expectations and the importance of maintainingfidelity to the NAE Engineer of 2020 attributes. Second, the hesitation to develop novelassessment protocols considering work load issues and the need for institutional support. Thirdis the acceptance of data/outcome of engineering education research (particularly qualitativedata) in the engineering community; and lastly, the rewards of restructuring engineeringcurriculum to prepare well-rounded students. This paper summarizes each theme and providesdirect quotations from individual participant responses thereby offering insight and direction toassist engineering educators in developing curriculum that fosters, improves, and optimizesstudent learning.

Dingwall, A. A., & Fleming, L. N., & Adams, R., & Siddiqui, J. A. (2011, June), Learning in Context: Recognizing Challenges and Rewards of Engineering Curriculum Reform Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18262

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