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Work in Progress: Using Systems Thinking to Advance Faculty Development: A Student Success in Engineering Example

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Faculty Development Lightning Talk Session 2

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Faculty Development Division

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Amy B. Chan Hilton University of Southern Indiana

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Amy B. Chan Hilton, Ph.D., P.E., F.EWRI serves as the Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning and is a Professor of Engineering at the University of Southern Indiana. Her work focuses on motivating and supporting faculty in instruction transformation to improve student outcomes, developing frameworks and systematic strategies to cultivate faculty and administrative buy-in for change, and increasing the understanding of what impact student success and retention in STEM for diverse populations of learners. Prior to joining USI, Dr. Chan Hilton served as a Program Director at the National Science Foundation with experience in the Engineering Education and Centers (ENG/EEC) division and the Division of Undergraduate Education (EHR/DUE). She also served as Associate Chair and Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Florida A&M University - Florida State University College of Engineering. She holds civil and environmental engineering degrees from MIT and the University of Virginia and is a licensed professional engineer.

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This work in progress describes a systems thinking approach to gather the perspectives on what impacts student success in engineering from engineering students and faculty. Student retention and success is a complex issue, typically with multiple factors that can work together or conflict. Often, students’ perspectives are missing in developing strategies to support student retention and success. The implementation of curricular changes across an engineering program and within specific courses, such as implementing active learning, other evidence-based instructional practices, and high-impact practices, can improve student success and retention (NAS 2016). At the same time, institutional programs that provide opportunities for academic support and advising, co-curricular engagement, the development of intrapersonal and interpersonal skills, fostering a student’s sense of belonging, and financial assistance have been documented to contribute to student success and retention (APLU 2016, NAS 2017). Faculty members have varying recognition of the interrelationship between these supports and their role in teaching and learning. Faculty developers can help bridge these connections and help faculty identify and develop evidence-based instructional strategies in their courses.

This work in progress paper explores the ways a systems mapping approach to gathering perspectives and engaging stakeholders around student success and retention. Through a systems mapping activity, participants were invited to identify the factors and actions that impact student retention and success. During a systems mapping process adapted from The Omidyar Group (2019), participants individually responded to the question “what impacts your (or students’) success in engineering?” and then worked in small groups to organize their responses and draw connections between the identified factors. For the participants, systems mapping creates opportunities to reflect on their beliefs and assumptions, interact with other perspectives, and hold conversations (Acaroglu 2016). Participants included a total of 99 students in different engineering majors, who were enrolled in either a sophomore-level Electric Circuits course or a Senior Design course, and 16 engineering faculty and staff members.

This paper discusses the implementation of the systems mapping process as a data collection approach. Exploring student success and retention using systems thinking can help identify perceived factors that then inform areas needing attention and potential solutions. The systems mapping process could be adapted by those seeking to gather perspectives or foster engagement around a complex issue.

Chan Hilton, A. B. (2021, July), Work in Progress: Using Systems Thinking to Advance Faculty Development: A Student Success in Engineering Example Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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