Asee peer logo

The Arrows in Our Backs: Lessons Learned Trying to Change the Engineering Curriculum

Download Paper |


2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

NSF Grantees' Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1166.1 - 23.1166.18



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Steven W Villachica Boise State University

visit author page

Dr. Steven Villachica is an associate professor of Instructional and Performance Technology (IPT) at Boise State University. His research interests focus on leveraging expertise in the workplace in ways that meet organizational missions and business goals. He is currently working on an NSF grant to increase engineering faculty adoption of evidence-based instructional practices [NSF #1037808: Engineering Education Research to Practice (E2R2P)]. A frequent author and conference presenter, Dr. Villachica is a member of ASEE, ISPI, ASTD, and AECT. A contributing editor to IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication and ETR&D, Dr. Villachica completed his doctorate in educational technology at the University of Northern Colorado.

visit author page


Anthony Wayne Marker Boise State University

visit author page

Dr. Tony Marker is an associate professor in the Instructional and Performance Technology Department in the College of Engineering at Boise State University. He is a LEED accredited professional and teaches graduate courses in improving human performance in the workplace, systems thinking, and the design of sustainable business processes. His professional interests include balancing financial, social and environmental performance and the development of wisdom in the workplace.

visit author page

author page

Donald Plumlee Boise State University

author page

Linda Huglin

author page

Amy Chegash Boise State University

Download Paper |


The Arrows in Our Backs: Lessons Learned Trying to Change the Engineering Curriculum Engineering Education Research to Practice (E2R2P): NSF Grant 1037808Published research has provided a robust set of documented tools and techniques fortransforming individual engineering courses in ways that use evidence-based instructionalpractices. Many engineering faculty are already aware of these practices and would like to usethem. However, they still face significant implementation barriers. The E2R2P effort addressesthe question: How can successes in engineering education research translate into widespreadinstructional practice?This poster session will describe hard-won lessons the E2R2P team has learned as it begins itsthird year attempting such curricular change.Lesson 1: Hosting “wonder workshops” to introduce engineering faculty to evidence-based instructional strategies won’t produce curricular change. Faculty have other more pressing demands on their time.Lesson 2: Visible redesigns of courses don’t produce curricular change. Faculty don’t have the time to watch or participate in the redesign of other people’s courses—even when these redesigns involve evidence-based strategies they could use.Lesson 3: Work systemically. Involve academic and industry stakeholders in a shared problem, such as how to decrease the time that newly graduated and hired “fresh out” engineers need to reach competent levels of workplace performance.Lesson 4: Work together to change graduating skill sets and learning curves. Make traditional boundaries between universities and industry increasingly porous.Lesson 5: Use engineering to talk about curricular change in engineering education. Our research agenda now consists of the following phases: problem identification, root cause analysis, and corrective action.Lesson 6: Avoid talking about “knowledge” and course topics. Instead, use workplace performance as a gold standard for prioritizing what goes into courses and how to create learning activities that promote skill transfer. Instead, talk about what fresh out engineers are doing on the job.Lesson 7: Use data collected from academic and industry stakeholders as a basis for shared decision making and solution building. Conversations about problem identification and root cause analysis build engagement and commitment to conversations about shared corrective actions. This community of shared concern and practice can work together to identify and correct causes of increased ramp-up time—in ways that benefit universities and industry alike.Lesson 8: It takes time to grow the contact network that can bring academics and industry stakeholders into a larger community of practice. Getting opportunities to collect meaningful data requires industry contacts who can say “yes” to focus groups, interviews, and surveys. Cultivate multiple, renewable sources of contacts.Lesson 9: Work across multiple disciplines. Include stakeholders from all engineering disciplines. Include non-engineering disciplines, such as performance improvement, workforce readiness, qualitative methods, and business communications, and business management. Work with university staff and leadership.Lesson 10: Seize the momentum. ASEE devoted a plenary session to the ability of graduates to walk into jobs prepared for what they do on a daily basis. Industry is looking to cut the cost of onboarding. Academics are looking to find competitive differentiators in an increasingly tighter market for students.

Villachica, S. W., & Marker, A. W., & Plumlee, D., & Huglin, L., & Chegash, A. (2013, June), The Arrows in Our Backs: Lessons Learned Trying to Change the Engineering Curriculum Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22551

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2013 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015