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Mapping & Strengthening Curriculum-Based Industry/Academia Intersections

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

College Industry Partnerships Division Technical Session 1

Tagged Division

College Industry Partnerships

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Paper Authors


Katherine McConnell University of Colorado Boulder/Denver

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Katherine McConnell is a Senior Professional Development Advisor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is currently a student at the University of Colorado Denver pursuing an EdD in Leadership for Educational Equity with a concentration in Professional Learning and Technology.

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This theoretically-grounded research paper presents a study out of the University of Colorado Boulder focused on mapping the use of industry-based problems and examples across the undergraduate core curriculum in Mechanical Engineering. The study uses a material-semiotic approach based on actor-network theory (ANT), which focuses on the interactions between people, things, and ideas within a constantly shifting network. That approach is used to study the intersections between students’ network of academic practice and the network of industry-based practice that they are preparing to enter. Specifically, it looks at how industry-based problems and examples are represented in material aspects of students’ academic practice through homework, lecture slides, and other course materials.

The study was designed to provide a foundation for a new initiative being launched in Spring 2019. That initiative is part of a multi-year effort in the Department of Mechanical Engineering that was established with the goal of bringing students, alumni, industry, and the curriculum closer together. Translated into the language of ANT, the goal is to identify and expand on points of intersection between the academic experience of studying to become an engineer and the real-world experience of being an engineer. Current efforts include both curricular and co-curricular components, but have so far been largely focused on both a specific cluster of classes and real-time interactions between students and industry. The goal moving forward is to build on that foundation through the addition of a material component that can be transported through the space-time of academic practice, to be used by multiple faculty during multiple semesters. Specifically, the goal is to develop a new database of industry-based problems and examples tailored to fit into courses across the core curriculum.

A central tenet of ANT is its emphasis on the interaction between material and human actors. In keeping with that approach, the primary data source for the study was an inventory of curriculum-related materials drawn from across the undergraduate program. A total of 753 documents were reviewed from 15 core courses, with specific documents including syllabi, homework, lecture slides, and exams. Problems and examples from those materials were grouped according to emergent themes, in order to map how and where examples drawn from engineering practice are being used. The material component of the study was supplemented by classroom observations and a short series of interviews with students, alumni, and faculty. Findings are presented and discussed, with a focus on identifying insights that will be of use in developing new, industry-based course content.

McConnell, K. (2019, June), Mapping & Strengthening Curriculum-Based Industry/Academia Intersections Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33085

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