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Sustaining Innovation in Engineering Education through Faculty Communities

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session I

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Geoffrey L Herman University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Geoffrey L. Herman is a visiting assistant professor with the Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a research assistant professor with the Department of Curriculum & Instruction. He earned his Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a Mavis Future Faculty Fellow and conducted postdoctoral research with Ruth Streveler in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. His research interests include creating systems for sustainable improvement in engineering education, promoting intrinsic motivation in the classroom, conceptual change and development in engineering students, and change in faculty beliefs about teaching and learning. He serves as the webmaster for the ASEE Educational Research and Methods Division.

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Laura D Hahn University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Laura Hahn is Director of the Academy for Excellence in Engineering Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is also an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Her interests include communities of practice, classroom discourse, and intercultural communication for engineers.

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Matthew West University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Orcid 16x16

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Matthew West is an Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to joining Illinois he was on the faculties of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at Stanford University and the Department of Mathematics at the University of California, Davis. Prof. West holds a Ph.D. in Control and Dynamical Systems from the California Institute of Technology and a B.Sc. in Pure and Applied Mathematics from the University of Western Australia. His research is in the field of scientific computing and numerical analysis, where he works on computational algorithms for simulating complex stochastic systems such as atmospheric aerosols and feedback control. Prof. West is the recipient of the NSF CAREER award and is a University of Illinois Distinguished Teacher-Scholar and College of Engineering Education Innovation Fellow.

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Improving the quality of engineering education requires that we not only understand what teaching methods are effective but also why faculty choose to adopt and continue to use those teaching methods. Studies guided by the Diffusion of Innovations has shown that faculty are generally aware of RBIS, but either fail to incorporate them into their teaching methods or they quickly abandon their adoption of RBIS shortly after beginning to use them. The first challenge suggests that faculty need to perceive the value that RBIS bring to their own classrooms. The second challenge of “adopt and drop,” suggests that faculty need support structures or supportive environments that enable them to continue using RBIS. Critically, these findings are robust across organization types as both teaching-focused and research-focused institutions face similar challenges. These findings suggest that common concerns about tenure and promotion practices may not be as prominent a barrier to effective instruction and the adoption of RBIS as many faculty intuitively expect.

At a large Midwestern, research-intensive university, the college of engineering has been deploying the Strategic Instructional Innovations Program (SIIP) to support faculty-led innovation of teaching practices. The primary emphasis of SIIP has been the creation of communities of tenure-track and specialized faculty that will motivate faculty to adopt RBIS and then sustain their use beyond the initial financial investment in creating that community. The emphasis on community simultaneously addresses both challenges identified in the literature. When tenure-track faculty are the champions for the adoption of RBIS, they are better able to communicate the value of RBIS and encourage their adoption by other tenure-track faculty. Additionally, the creation of communities creates communities of practice that situate learning, enabling organic faculty development and mutually-supportive relationships. These new communally-oriented teaching environments create new value for participation in the use of RBIS.

In this paper, we describe SIIP and how we have progressively supported the development of faculty teaching communities over the life of the program. We provide evidence that SIIP has not only increased the use of RBIS, but is also sustaining their use beyond the initial financial investments in the creation of those communities.

Herman, G. L., & Hahn, L. D., & West, M. (2016, June), Sustaining Innovation in Engineering Education through Faculty Communities Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25993

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