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Making an Impact on Engineering Education Communities: Learning from the Past and Looking Forward

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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

Faculty Development II: Building Community Among STEM Educators

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Cheryl Allendoerfer University of Washington

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Dr. Allendoerfer is a Research Scientist in the College of Engineering at the University of Washington.

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Ken Yasuhara University of Washington, Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching

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Ken Yasuhara is a research scientist at the Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching (CELT), a campus lead for the Consortium to Promote Reflection in Engineering Education (CPREE), and an instructional consultant in the Office for the Advancement of Engineering Teaching & Learning (ET&L) at the University of Washington. He completed an A.B. in computer science at Dartmouth College and a Ph.D. in computer science and engineering at the University of Washington. When he finds the time, he plays with bicycles and knitting needles.

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Jennifer A. Turns University of Washington

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Jennifer Turns is a Professor in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington. She is interested in all aspects of engineering education, including how to support engineering students in reflecting on experience, how to help engineering educators make effective teaching decisions, and the application of ideas from complexity science to the challenges of engineering education.

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Cynthia J. Atman University of Washington

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Cynthia J. Atman is the founding director of the Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching (CELT), a professor in Human Centered Design & Engineering, and the inaugural holder of the Mitchell T. & Lella Blanche Bowie Endowed Chair at the University of Washington. Dr. Atman is co-director of the newly-formed Consortium for Promoting Reflection in Engineering Education (CPREE), funded by a $4.4 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. She was director of the NSF-funded Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE), a national research center that was funded from 2003-2010. Dr. Atman is the author or co-author on over 115 archival publications. She has been invited to give many keynote addresses, including a Distinguished Lecture at the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) 2014 Annual Conference.

Dr. Atman joined the UW in 1998 after seven years on the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research focuses on engineering education pedagogy, engineering design learning, assessing the consideration of context in engineering design, and understanding undergraduate engineering student pathways. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the ASEE. She was the recipient of the 2002 ASEE Chester F. Carlson Award for Innovation in Engineering Education and the 2009 UW David B. Thorud Leadership Award. Dr. Atman holds a Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.

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This research paper will present findings from a study of the “impact trajectories” (contributions, influences, challenges, successes) of pioneers in the field of engineering education. For the purposes of this project, “engineering education pioneers” are defined as those who: 1) are/were active (through research, practice, and/or service) in the area of engineering education; and 2) are recognized by members of the engineering education community as significant contributors to or shapers of the field of engineering education. The study focused on pioneers who were near retirement or had already retired. Understanding the nature of the evolving field of engineering education, as well as building and sustaining a community of scholars doing this work, has recently been the focus of multiple studies and faculty professional development efforts. Building upon this work, the present study seeks to explore in greater depth the nature of the pioneers’ perceived contributions and impacts in engineering education, and also understand how those impacts have come about. In order to address these goals, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 47 individuals identified as engineering education pioneers. Interview transcripts were transcribed, coded, and analyzed qualitatively in order to understand the types of contributions to or impacts on the field that the pioneers felt they had made so far during their careers. This analysis revealed that the large majority of responses referred to contributions or impacts related to either supporting and building engineering education communities, or defining the field of engineering education research. The characteristics of these reported contributions and impacts will be illustrated in detail in the paper, and lessons learned regarding strategies for making impact will be discussed. Given the emergence of community as a central theme, the paper will frame these findings in terms of communities of practice, discussing how the pioneers’ accounts of contributions and impacts relate to Lave and Wenger’s concepts of domain, community, and practice. These findings are of interest because they highlight the collaborative nature of this work and the culture of the community. They also point to the evolution of the field over the past few decades. We anticipate that these findings will help current and future engineering education scholars better understand how and why supporting the community is important. Also, insights into why the field has evolved in the way it has, through the deliberate work of many people, will be informative for scholars who will be carrying the field forward.

Allendoerfer, C., & Yasuhara, K., & Turns, J. A., & Atman, C. J. (2016, June), Making an Impact on Engineering Education Communities: Learning from the Past and Looking Forward Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25655

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