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We All Take Learners Into Account In Our Teaching Decisions: Wait, Do We?

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

SPECIAL SESSION: Describing the Engineering Student Learning Experience Based on CAEE Findings: Part 2

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1391.1 - 13.1391.19



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Paper Authors


Jennifer Turns University of Washington

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JENNIFER TURNS is an Associate Professor in the Department of Technical Communication,
College of Engineering, University of Washington. She leads the Scholarship on Teaching
element of the CAEE. She is also a Faculty Affiliate with the Center for Engineering Learning
and Teaching.

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Jessica Yellin University of Washington

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JESSICA M. H. YELLIN is a Research Scientist for the Scholarship on Teaching element of the
Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE). She holds a Ph.D. in Mechanical
Engineering from the University of Washington with dissertation research on structural vibration
and damping of acoustic noise in thin-walled structures.

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Yi-Min Huang University of Washington

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YI-MIN HUANG is a research scientist for the Scholarship on Teaching element of the Center
for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE). She holds a Ph.D. in Educational
Psychology from Washington State University.

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Brook Sattler University of Washington

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BROOK SATTLER is an undergraduate research assistant for the Scholarship on Teaching
element of the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE). She is a senior in
Technical Communication at the University of Washington.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

We all take learners into account in our teaching decisions: wait, do we?

Abstract Creating a learner-centered environment within an instructional setting is a goal which engineering faculty are encouraged to achieve. However, little has been studied of how engineering educators actually incorporate learner issues into their teaching. In this paper we report on this issue by describing how three engineering educators talked about learners in the context of talking about teaching decisions. In particular we characterize the range of dimensions mentioned by the educators, the source of their information, and the way they used the information. We focus on learner characterizations in three specific areas related to: interacting with students, student ratings and in the context of active learning. We situate this work in notions of theories of learner-centeredness and the current body of scholarship providing characterizations of engineering students and their learning. The findings remind us of the complexity of on-the-ground teaching activity.

Introduction Literature on engineering education and teaching in general suggests that educators should focus on the learner1,2,3. Despite the relevance of this issue, little has been published to date about how engineering educators actually incorporate learner issues in their teaching, and it is simply unclear how learners actually figure into things in teaching practice in engineering. Further, there is reason to wonder the extent and ways in which practicing educators take learners into account. Factors that might affect the extent to which engineering educators can and do take learners into account include the minimal amount of formal training most engineering educators receive for teaching, the notion that learners are only one of the many things educators have to take into account in teaching, and the observation that teaching is only one of an engineering educator’s/faculty member’s responsibilities.

In this paper, we address this issue of how engineering educators take learners into account in their teaching through case studies of three engineering educators. These case studies are theoretically sampled from a larger dataset of engineering educators asked to provide descriptions of teaching decisions. Because the educators were asked to report on teaching decisions broadly and not specifically asked about students or learners, we have had the chance to see how the educators naturally brought learner issues into the teaching. In our analysis, we explored how the engineering educators talked about and characterized their learners; the ways in which the learner characterizations were linked to their teaching decisions; and the source of their information about learners.

The major findings from our case study analysis included how the three educators characterized teacher/student relationships, the ways in which they interacted with students, their views on using student ratings, reasons for using active learning as a specific pedagogical approach, and their sources of information. While all three educators characterized teacher/student relationships as starting with mutual respect, they used two very different analogies to describe teacher/student relationships: the parent/child analogy, and the senior colleague/junior colleague analogy. All three developed their own models for interacting with students in large groups and felt students

Turns, J., & Yellin, J., & Huang, Y., & Sattler, B. (2008, June), We All Take Learners Into Account In Our Teaching Decisions: Wait, Do We? Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3727

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: © 2008 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