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Transforming an Institution by Engineering Learning

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Institutional Change

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Sam Spiegel Colorado School of Mines

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Dr. Spiegel is the Director of the Trefny Innovative Instruction Center at the Colorado School of Mines. He previously served as Chair of the Disciplinary Literacy in Science Team at the Institute for Learning (IFL) and Associate Director of Outreach and Development for the Swanson School of Engineering's Engineering Education Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh. Prior to joining the University of Pittsburgh, he was a science educator at Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS). Dr. Spiegel also served as Director of Research & Development for a multimedia development company and as founding Director of the Center for Integrating Research & Learning (CIRL) at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, Florida State University. Under Dr. Spiegel's leadership, the CIRL matured into a thriving Center recognized as one of the leading National Science Foundation Laboratories for activities to promote science, mathematics, and technology (STEM) education. While at Florida State University, Dr. Spiegel also directed an award winning teacher enhancement program for middle grades science teachers, entitled Science For Early Adolescence Teachers (Science FEAT).

His extensive background in science education includes experiences as both a middle school and high school science teacher, teaching science at elementary through graduate level, developing formative assessment instruments, teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in science and science education, working with high-risk youth in alternative education centers, working in science museums, designing and facilitating online courses, multimedia curriculum development, and leading and researching professional learning for educators. The Association for the Education of Teachers of Science (AETS) honored Dr. Spiegel for his efforts in teacher education with the Innovation in Teaching Science Teachers award (1997).

Dr. Spiegel's current efforts focus on educational reform and in the innovation of teaching and learning resources and practices.

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Megan Sanders Colorado School of Mines Orcid 16x16

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Megan Sanders is the Senior Assessment Associate at the Trefny Innovative Instruction Center at the Colorado School of Mines. Before joining Mines, Megan worked at the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence and Instructional Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University, where her role focused on supporting instructors in conducting research about student outcomes in their courses. Megan’s disciplinary background is in educational psychology. She earned her PhD from the Ohio State University, and her research focused on the idea of relevance in higher education—how we define it, how students perceive it, and how to measure it—an interest that continues to inform her work.

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Jennifer Zoltners Sherer University of Pittsburgh

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Jennifer Zoltners Sherer is a Research Associate at the University of Pittsburgh’s Learning Research & Development Center. Her work focuses on developmental evaluation, initiation and development of networked improvement communities (NIC), and improving STEM teaching and learning. Her research interests include distributed leadership, organizational change, and improving teaching and learning through tool design and implementation, professional development, reform initiatives, and curriculum. Prior to receiving her Ph.D. in Learning Sciences from Northwestern University, she was a teacher in Oregon.

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This Evidence-based Practice Paper describes the process of Engineering Learning, provides examples of specific practices used to implement Engineering Learning at <<PublicUniversity>>, and highlights initial evidence for the positive impact of these practices across various levels of the institution.

Engineering Learning is an intentional design process in which faculty shift from the role of instructor, focused on delivery of content, to the role of designer and facilitator of learning. The design process is based on backwards design (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005) and connects to research-based teaching approaches by creating the space (time or pause) and probes to have faculty focus on thoughtful learning outcomes, aligning those with assessment and tasks, considering how to utilize talk and task designs to enhance student engagement and learning, and focusing on data-driven learning opportunities (Ambrose et. al., 2010; Biggs & Tang, 2011; Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000; Feder & Brent, 2016; Chi, 2009). It changes the conversation from one of “covering content” to one focused on student learning. Engineering Learning requires significant shifts in the ways teaching and learning are approached in higher education. The intent is to realign instruction with 1) current research-based approaches to teaching and learning, 2) changing student needs, 3) student passions and interests, and 4) the practices and understandings desired by industry and needed for the world of tomorrow.

To implement Engineering Learning at << PublicUniversity >>, we have developed and enacted several specific practices at the institutional, college, departmental, and faculty level. For example, at the institutional level, we have shifted the general perspective of faculty to that of designers of learning opportunities, leading to funding models that provide time for faculty to develop or revise existing courses. At the college and department level, we have facilitated workshops to help campus leaders identify ways to support their faculty as the faculty begin changing their teaching practices. At the level of faculty, 20% of our faculty have participated in our intensive, month-long professional learning experience focused on Engineering Learning and significantly engineering (redesigning) a course. These examples illustrate some of the specific practices we are using to introduce Engineering Learning across the institution. We have collected several types of evidence to document the impact of these practices, including student outcomes, classroom observations, faculty and student surveys and interviews, and institutional changes in policy. Institutionally, both the president and the board of trustees provide strong support for the work of the teaching center. As another example, pre-post observation data points to changes in faculty practices, with faculty using more active learning in their courses after participating in the summer intensive. In terms of student outcomes, analysis of common exams in chemistry and calculus courses indicates that students taught by faculty who participated in our summer intensive outperform students taught by faculty who have not yet participated.

Taken together, data like this suggest that the framework of Engineering Learning and the practices used to implement it are positively shifting the conversations around teaching and learning.

Spiegel, S., & Sanders, M., & Sherer, J. Z. (2018, June), Transforming an Institution by Engineering Learning Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31157

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: © 2018 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