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Teaching Journeys of Engineering Faculty: Stories of Transition

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Faculty and Course Evolution: Teaching With Technology, Online Delivery, and Addressing Emerging Student & Industry Needs

Tagged Division

Continuing Professional Development

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1145.1 - 23.1145.9



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Paper Authors


Sandra Bird University of Georgia

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Ms. Bird is an environmental engineer retired from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in engineering at the University of Georgia, College of Engineering.

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Nadia N. Kellam University of Georgia

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Nadia Kellam is an Associate Professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Georgia where she is co-director of the interdisciplinary CLUSTER research group. Dr. Kellam is interested in understanding how engineering students develop their professional identity; her research focuses specifically on creativity, interdisciplinarity, and the role of emotion in cognition. She created the synthesis and design studios in the environmental engineering program and is currently developing the professional and design spines for the upcoming mechanical engineering program. She is also interested in faculty development and recently co-organized the NSF-sponsored PEER workshop for tenure-track engineering education research faculty.

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Teaching Journeys of Engineering Faculty: Stories of TransitionThe need for more engineers with a broader world view has led to a call for a change in teachingstrategies in engineering. Since developing “evidence-based” teaching innovations has not beenenough to effect pervasive change in teaching practices in engineering schools, a need tounderstand how these innovations are adopted is broadly acknowledged. The research on changein teaching practices by engineering faculty has focused on the adoption of specific innovations,the steps in the process of the diffusion of innovations, or on identifying motivations and barriersto change. The understanding this study seeks is more holistic. This study focuses onindividuals who adopt innovative practices, how they perceive their teaching journey and whythey move from teaching how they were taught to adopting more student-centered practices.This study specifically focuses on the transition in teaching practices of three engineering facultymembers. Participants in the study were individuals who were self-identified as using activelearning practices in their classroom and were willing to try new teaching innovations in theirclassroom. Participants in this study were interviewed using semi-structured, open endedquestions about their teaching history; these interviews lasted 1 – 1-1/2 hours. Understandingthe meaning individuals ascribe to their teaching practice is central to understanding theirmotivations to change. Since narrative is the way humans understand the world, and storiesorganize human experience through time, the investigation of individual teaching transitionslends itself to the use of narrative inquiry. A narrative framework was used for the analysis inthis study. Through the personal narrative, a life as told, we begin to understand a life asexperienced.The use of a narrative perspective allowed the researcher to privilege the participant in both theinterviews and during data analysis. The narrative analysis of this data indicates that transition ofteaching styles is not a single step adoption of an innovation and this transition takes place overan extended period of time starting with the life of the participant as a student and throughouttheir teaching career. In addition the participants described trigger events, challenges in thetransition, mentors encouraging their transition, and their own efforts to serve as mentors andthese will described in more detail in the full paper. Based on these results, the authors will alsodiscuss the characteristics of ‘change adopters’ and implications for engineering educationfaculty that would like to make changes in their teaching to begin to adopt more student-centeredpractices.

Bird, S., & Kellam, N. N. (2013, June), Teaching Journeys of Engineering Faculty: Stories of Transition Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22530

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