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Understanding Faculty and Practitioner Involvement in a Capstone Interdisciplinary Design Experience

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Understanding Students and Faculty

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1571.1 - 22.1571.11



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Paper Authors


Shane A. Brown Washington State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Brown is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Washington State University. His research includes understanding how and why faculty adopt curricular innovations using Diffusions of Innovation Theory and the Concerns Based Adoption Model.

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Nadia Frye Washington State University

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Nadia Frye is currently working on her Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at Washington State University focusing on Engineering Education research.

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Devlin B. Montfort Washington State University


Paul M. Smith Pennsylvania State University

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Dr. Smith is a Professor of Forest Products Marketing at Penn State University. He received a B.S. in Forestry, University of Montana, M.S. in Forest Products, University of Idaho and Ph.D. in Forest Products Marketing, Virginia Tech. He also serves as adjunct Professor at Washington State University’s Wood Materials & Engineering Lab and Institute for Sustainable Design.

Dr. Smith’s recent research interests include: Trade Show Use/Effectiveness, Value Analysis, Product-Market Development, Branding, Content Analysis of Advertising, and Pennsylvania’s Hardwood Industries.

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Understanding Faculty and Practitioner Involvement in a Capstone Interdisciplinary Design Experience through the Lens of Diffusions of Innovation Theory and the Concerns Based Adoption ModelEvery year a multitude of engineering education innovations are developed and disseminated, withthe hope that adoption of these innovations will lead to broad transformation of engineeringeducation. However, little effort is made to understand the processes of adoption, including how andwhy individuals choose to implement or be involved with these innovations. Even if the adoptionprocess is investigated, it is unusual to do so within a theoretical framework to guide this effort andsubsequently improve the generalizability of the results. Diffusions of Innovation (DI) and theConcerns Based Adoption Model (CBAM) have been used extensively to evaluate adoption in manyareas, including innovations ranging from curricular programs and computer-based learning modulesto consumer products. However, these tools have not commonly been utilized, evaluated and re-designed for application to engineering education innovations.An Interdisciplinary Design Experience (IDeX), involving undergraduate and graduate students andfaculty from several disciplines, including engineering, architecture, construction management, andlandscape architecture, was established in the fall of 2009 at a major land grant university in thenorthwest. The IDEX program focuses on the sustainable design of an interdisciplinary project overthe course of a year, and includes extensive involvement from engineers and architects from industryin the form of workshops and mentoring students on their design efforts. Applying the DI andCBAM frameworks to a complex program involving wide-ranging curriculum and industryinvolvement, among others, like IDEX is unique from previous uses of these frameworks.The goal of this research is to apply portions of DI and the CBAM to understand why faculty andpractitioners choose to participate in the IDEX program. The five characteristics; relative advantage,complexity, compatibility, trialibity, and observability, of an innovation that affect adoption from DIand the innovation configuration from CBAM were used to investigate the adoption decision.Qualitative interview techniques were used to determine why seven engineering and architecturefaculty and the five engineering practitioners, the project clients for the 2010-2011 program, chose toparticipate in IDEX. The interviews were used to determine how faculty and practitioners defined thecourse and their participation, as well concerns they had with their perceived structure of the course.Faculty most commonly spoke of their interest in working with the developer of the IDEX programand their interest in sustainable design as incentive to participate. Both faculty and practitionerscommonly mentioned as a reason to participate the potential value to students in being able to engagein an authentic interdisciplinary design experience and how this would be helpful for preparingstudents for the workforce. Both groups cited the involvement of students from diverse backgroundsboth as vital to the program and a continuing challengeThis research provides guidance to other universities understanding why faculty and engineeringpractitioners choose to participate in interdisciplinary capstone design courses. Results alsocontribute to how DI and CBAM can be implemented to a complex social phenomenon like IDEX.

Brown, S. A., & Frye, N., & Montfort, D. B., & Smith, P. M. (2011, June), Understanding Faculty and Practitioner Involvement in a Capstone Interdisciplinary Design Experience Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18510

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