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Using Faculty Communities to Drive Sustainable Reform: Learning from the Strategic Instructional Initiatives Program

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Continuing Professional Development Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Continuing Professional Development

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1329.1 - 24.1329.9



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Paper Authors


Geoffrey L Herman University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Geoffrey L. Herman is a visiting assistant professor with the Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education. He earned his Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign as a Mavis Future Faculty Fellow and conducted postdoctoral research with Ruth Streveler in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. His research interests include creating systems for sustainable improvement in engineering education, promoting intrinsic motivation in the classroom, conceptual change and development in engineering students, and change in faculty beliefs about teaching and learning. He is a recipient of the 2011 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Educational Research and Methods Division Apprentice Faculty Grant. He helps steer the College of Engineering Dean’s Strategic Instructional Initiatives Program and consults with the Academy for Excellence in Engineering Education at the University of Illinois.

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Leslie Crowley University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Associate Director, Academy for Excellence in Engineering Education

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“Think Deep, Not Fast:” Learning from the Strategic Instructional Initiatives Program “Live deep, not fast,” is an admonition coined in the early 1900’s by Henry Seidel Canby.The Strategic Instructional Initiatives Program (SIIP) has been an invitation to our faculty tothink deep, not fast, about what is core and what is periphery in our efforts to provide the bestundergraduate engineering experience that we know how to provide. Faculty were challenged toact as reflective practitioners engaged in collaborative efforts to create education reform. In February 2012, the College of Engineering allocated an unprecedented level offunding to solicit proposals for the SIIP. Faculty proposed large-scale renovations of a specificundergraduate course or closely-related group of courses, with the goal of improving studentengagement, learning outcomes, and faculty teaching experiences. While our faculty possessrequisite expertise in their course content, they are less aware of effective teaching practices.This weakness was particularly detrimental to our large enrollment gateway courses,undermining student persistence and subsequent academic success. Consequently, in addition toproviding funding, the SIIP initiative attempted to provide just in time faculty and communitydevelopment. As we have continued to develop and refine the SIIP, we have used both a reliance onresearch literature and critical reflection to reframe the core objectives of the program and toredefine the problem of change in engineering education. While the initial goals of SIIP were toimprove 1) course and curriculum redesign, 2) assessment of student learning, and 3) instructortraining and development, we have discovered that collaborative reflection and community arecritical first steps in the reform process. Many of our faculty struggle to adopt best practices pedagogies, not because they do notcare about improving instruction (they care deeply), but rather they have deep conflictingcommitments, beliefs, and habits that inhibit and resist change. These conflicting commitmentsare best addressed in collaborative communities in which faculty have a safe place to explore andchallenge their commitments with the support of their peers. Historically, our teaching culture has a fierce independence. Faculty are hired for theirexpertise in content knowledge and then asked to teach with the implicit assumption that theirexpertise makes them uniquely qualified to teach disciplinary courses. Further, faculty teachindependently with little input or guidance from their peers. During the first year of SIIP, wediscovered that this independent teaching culture was a primary barrier to change. Of the fivefunded projects, two made significant progress in creating pedagogical reforms: bothcollaboratively developed pedagogies and tools, creating communal knowledge. The remainingthree projects were led by isolated faculty or isolated faculty teams with attempts to pass oninnovations through transmittal of knowledge between semesters or by passing along packets ofnotes. Just as transmittal of information through lecturing leads to poor learning and retention,these transmission models of reform led to frustrated adoption of evidence-based pedagogies. In this paper, we will discuss our observations and reflections on successful and haltedreforms more deeply, and will describe our new approach to administrating and leading thispedagogical change effort.

Herman, G. L., & Crowley, L. (2014, June), Using Faculty Communities to Drive Sustainable Reform: Learning from the Strategic Instructional Initiatives Program Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23262

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