Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Engineering and Public Policy
This work-in progress paper presents a case study at a large Midwestern university where two faculty-led initiatives resulted in a cross-departmental center, the Mechanical Engineering Education Research Center at BLINDUNIV (MEERCat BLINDUNIV), with a goal of transitioning engineering education research advances into practice at scale. Other faculty engaged in innovation and research can use this case study to identify strategies to collect data and use the results to inform both the innovation itself and the broader departmental system (i.e., policies and practices) in which it operates. By systematically looking at the larger implications of their local innovation, faculty can create productive research-to-practice cycles that can improve the teaching practice and departmental culture, and later inform policy decisions at the department and college level.
Two signature initiatives under the MEERCat umbrella provide useful examples of such data collection and research strategies, and connections to inform research-to-practice. In one research project, faculty in the School of Mechanical Engineering transformed the core sophomore dynamics course offered to undergraduate students into an Active, Blended, and Collaborative (ABC) learning environment, now known as “Freeform”. As the Dynamics course was taught in an iteratively-refined Freeform learning environment, the rate at which students received the non-passing D, F, and W grades decreased. The Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (RED) project is another faculty-led research effort, which evaluates those cultural factors that influence student academic and professional outcomes, and engages faculty, staff, and students in conversations that span the pedagogical-to-departmental-policy spectrum. The approaches adopted in the Freeform and RED projects are detailed in this paper, with a special emphasis on data collection, research, and specific partnerships that enable department-level policy and practice discussions to take place.
MEERCat’s mission is to put results from the research studies into large-scale practice. It allows the Freeform and RED projects to work in parallel to align data collection and implementation efforts, and leverage the network of other researchers and professionals on our campus, including our Institutional Research Office, and Center for Instructional Excellence. Since its establishment, MEERCat has received visibility across the University and has demonstrated the potential to inform practice both in the School of Mechanical Engineering and across other Schools in the College of Engineering. This paper describes the process of how a faculty-driven pedagogical innovation and research around departmental culture laid the foundation for a University-level research center that has begun to show the potential to inform teaching and learning in the School of Mechanical Engineering.
Kandakatla, R., & Goldenstein, A., & Evenhouse, D. A., & Berger, E. J., & Rhoads, J. F., & DeBoer, J. (2018, June), MEERCat: A Case Study of How Faculty-led Research Initiatives Gave Rise to a Cross-departmental Research Center with Potential to Inform Local Policy Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30802
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