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Making The Policy Case For Engineering Education Research

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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

Impacts of Public Policy on Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Engineering and Public Policy

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.863.1 - 13.863.11



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Paper Authors


Norman Fortenberry National Academy of Engineering

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Dr. Norman Fortenberry is the founding director of the Center for the Advancement of Scholarship on Engineering Education (CASEE) at the National Academy of Engineering. CASEE is a collaborative effort dedicated to achieving excellence in engineering education--education that is effective, engaged, and efficient. CASEE pursues this goal by promoting research on, innovation in, and diffusion of effective models of engineering education.

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Kamyar Haghighi Purdue University

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

Making the Policy Case for Engineering Education Research


As an emerging field, engineering education research is slowly acquiring the characteristics of a true discipline. However, as is true for any research field, it risks asphyxiation unless adequate intellectual, human, and financial resources are made available to support knowledge generation, graduate education, and community building activities. This paper defines engineering education research, summarizes its development and early growth within the US, gives indications of international progress, and details those actions necessary by various stakeholders of engineering education research to build the policy case for our field within the academic, government, non- profit, and corporate sectors.

Engineering Education Research


Recent decades have seen increasing levels of research on collegiate education within scientific disciplines by scientists themselves, including by those in physics[1], chemistry[2], biology[3], mathematics[4,5], computer science[6], and the geosciences[7]. Such research might best be characterized as application-driven basic research occurring in “Pasteur’s Quadrant”[8]. Driven by overarching questions such as — Can we better understand student learning of discipline x? — this type of research lays the foundation for more effective promotion of learning. These discipline-specific research findings hold the promise of encouraging college and university faculty members to bring the same rigor to classroom instruction that they currently employ in their scientific and technical research programs.

The case for discipline-based education research has been eloquently made by McDermott and Redish[9]:

Physics education research differs from traditional education research in that the emphasis is not on educational theory or methodology in the general sense, but rather on student understanding of physics. Such research requires an in-depth knowledge of the subject as well as access to students, which means that it can usually only be carried out by physicists working in physics departments. The findings form a rich resource that provides insights into how students learn physics. When teachers apply this information and document the results for others to use, cumulative improvement in instruction is possible.

Broadly, discipline-based education research seeks to marry deep knowledge of the discipline with similarly deep knowledge of learning and pedagogy. More specifically, within the engineering community, the ultimate aims of such research include the creation of education programs that attract more, and more diverse, students to the study of engineering, retain more of the students who are enrolled, deepen learning of engineering concepts by students, broaden students’ appreciation for the role of engineering in meeting the needs of a global society, and better prepare students for further study or professional practice. Engineering education research

Fortenberry, N., & Haghighi, K. (2008, June), Making The Policy Case For Engineering Education Research Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3526

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