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Teaching Across Boundaries: Examining the Institutional Process of Establishing Multidisciplinary Courses

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Engineering Courses

Tagged Division

Multidisciplinary Engineering

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Paper Authors


Samuel Aaron Snyder Virginia Tech

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Sam Snyder is a first year Ph.D. student in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. He received his Bachelors of Science in Materials Science and Engineering in 2017 from Virginia Tech. His current research interests are in engineering ethics education, social network analysis, and institutional change.

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Desen Sevi Özkan Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Desen is a Ph.D. candidate in Engineering Education at Virginia Tech and holds a B.S. in Chemical and Biological Engineering from Tufts University.

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Diana Bairaktarova Virginia Tech

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Dr. Diana Bairaktarova is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. Through real-world engineering applications, Dr. Bairaktarova’s experiential learning research spans from engineering to psychology to learning sciences, as she uncovers how individual performance is influenced by aptitudes, spatial skills, personal interests and direct manipulation of mechanical objects.

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Thomas W. Staley Virginia Tech


Stephen Biscotte Virginia Tech

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As Director of General Education, Dr. Stephen Biscotte helps support and manage the Pathways to General Education program. He has been fulfilling these responsibilities since summer of 2013.

Dr. Biscotte's general education relevant scholarship, particularly focused on the non-STEM student experience in STEM general education courses, has appeared in The Journal of General Education. He has given presentations and workshops on such gen ed related topics as innovative structures, university reform efforts, and progam evaluation both locally and nationally. Dr. Biscotte also serves on the council of the Association for General and Liberal Studies (AGLS).

Prior to his role at Virginia Tech, Biscotte was a high school science teacher for 11 years, teaching courses in anatomy and physiology, biology, and physical science in Roanoke, Virginia and Columbia, South Carolina. Biscotte received a bachelor’s degree in biology from James Madison University. He received a master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction: Science Education and a PhD in Curriculum and Instruction: Educational Psychology, both from Virginia Tech.

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Many of the decisions educators make are under direct influence of institutional structure, notably those that seek to create multidisciplinary spaces for students. Some multidisciplinary courses are developed in isolation even though they are intended to combine and integrate disciplines. This study seeks to explore how such multidisciplinary courses are established --the process that educators undergo to design and implement these courses, both formal and informal. We aim at utilizing social network analysis to identify and communicate the connections between educators and their multidisciplinary courses such that future courses can be developed more strategically. We have mapped the formal structure of the College of Engineering at University X using social network analysis. The networks were created using formally listed interdepartmental courses, office locations, and co-citation analysis of the last two years. To supplement the publicly available data, we plan to conduct semi-structured interviews with faculty affiliated with a broad sample of the multidisciplinary courses. Our plan of analysis is to compare the emerged from interviews themes against those from the social network analysis. These analysis will enable us to identify instances of alignment and divergence between what was shown in the institutional data and what was perceived and explained by faculty directly involved with multidisciplinary courses.. Once analysis is complete, we expect barriers to creating courses and support from administration to emerge as themes from faculty interviews. Similarly, we expect research interests and propinquity to serve as indicators for establishing multidisciplinary courses. Moving forward, the findings of this research can serve departments and feducators by acting as a feedback loop in providing new avenues for creating and implementing multidisciplinary courses by utilizing existing multidisciplinary connections.

Snyder, S. A., & Özkan, D. S., & Bairaktarova, D., & Staley, T. W., & Biscotte, S. (2019, June), Teaching Across Boundaries: Examining the Institutional Process of Establishing Multidisciplinary Courses Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33339

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