June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
12.1310.1 - 12.1310.11
Student Engagement and Faculty Scholarship
The undergraduate engineering programs established in 2001 at Western Kentucky University were structured with the goal of engaging students in the practice of engineering. To accomplish this it was necessary to attract faculty eager to practice engineering and to engage students in their scholarship activities. Promotion and tenure guidelines were established with a broadened definition of scholarship to foster such an environment. The definition included both traditional scholarship and engineering practice, with student participation being viewed as a very important component. An overarching goal is to have the students aware that the faculty is involved in the practice of engineering, and that the faculty shares this practice with the students. This includes both curricular and extra-curricular engineering projects. Thus, the creation of a project-based environment built around the practice of engineering has resulted.
Engaging students both in and out of the classroom is a means for fostering intellectual growth and contentment in students. In the undergraduate engineering programs this often means student engagement in activities that connect the concepts from lectures or textbooks to tangible engineering projects. In some academic environments the students in engineering programs may not acquire meaningful project experience in the areas of faculty expertise. This can be due, in part, to the expectations institutions place upon their faculty.
The professional growth and creative scholarly contributions of faculty is supported through the faculty reward system. Decisions regarding faculty merit pay, promotion, and tenure are based upon factors which include scholarly productivity. A compliant reward system will allow faculty to show their strengths, but should also (if not more importantly) allow for a breadth of acceptable activities particularly when student development is a direct result. Bringing together undergraduate student engagement in engineering projects and faculty scholarship is a challenge in many university environments. A reward system recognizing such activity as viable faculty scholarship can create an environment that supports faculty providing students with meaningful engineering projects.
Many engineering programs contain an environment where graduate student education through funded research efforts is a substantial component within the faculty reward system. These expectations often result in graduate students becoming the primary recipients of faculty engagement. Moreover, the reward system is often not supportive of faculty making contributions in ways that do not lead to publications in academic journals. This may discourage faculty participation in projects with industry where projects can involve generation of proprietary information. It can also inhibit faculty from spending scholarship time on projects within the university that do not lead to publishable information. Those activities can include significant practice of engineering.
It is important that the academic community continue to reflect upon the long term growth and competitiveness of engineering education. A focus on the academic institutes’ most important product - the graduating student – should be a main factor in decisions aimed at improving the
Byrne, C. (2007, June), Student Engagement And Faculty Scholarship Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://peer.asee.org/2321
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