Posts tagged ‘engineering education’

Increasing the Roles and Significance of Teachers in Policymaking for K-12 Engineering Education

National Academies have released a report that relates to the idea of Engineering for All.

Engineering is a small but growing part of K–12 education. Curricula that use the principles and practices of engineering are providing opportunities for elementary, middle, and high school students to design solutions to problems of immediate practical and societal importance. Professional development programs are showing teachers how to use engineering to engage students, to improve their learning of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and to spark their interest in engineering careers. However, many of the policies and practices that shape K–12 engineering education have not been fully or, in some cases, even marginally informed by the knowledge of teacher leaders.

To address the lack of teacher leadership in engineering education policymaking and how it might be mitigated as engineering education becomes more widespread in K–12 education in the United States, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine held a convocation on September 30–October 1, 2016. Participants explored how strategic connections both within and outside classrooms and schools might catalyze new avenues of teacher preparation and professional development, integrated curriculum development, and more comprehensive assessment of knowledge, skills, and attitudes about engineering in the K–12 curriculum. This publication summarizes the presentations and discussions from the event.

Source: Increasing the Roles and Significance of Teachers in Policymaking for K-12 Engineering Education: Proceedings of a Convocation | The National Academies Press

May 12, 2017 at 7:00 am 1 comment

Embedding and Tailoring Engineering Learning: A Vision for the Future of Engineering Education

In the last couple of months, I have had the opportunity to speak to groups of Engineering Education Researchers. That doesn’t happen often to me, and I feel very fortunate to get that chance.

I was asked to speak about my vision for the future of Engineering Education, from my perspective as a Computing Education Researcher. What I said wasn’t wholly unique–there are Engineering Education Researchers who are already working on some of the items I described. The response suggested that it was at least an interesting vision, so I’m telling the story here in blog form.

For readers of this blog who may not be familiar with Engineering Education Research, the Wikipedia page on EER is pretty good.  The most useful paper I read is Borrego and and Bernhard’s “The Emergence of Engineering Education Research as an Internationally Connected Field of Inquiry.”  I also recommend looking around the Purdue Engineering Education department website, which is the oldest Eng Ed department in the US.

Engineering has had a long relationship with computing. Engineers made computing part of their practice earlier and more pervasively than scientists or mathematicians. I love how this is described in the motion picture Hidden Figures where Octavia Spencer’s character is part of the effort to use computing as soon as possible in the American space program. Engineering educators have made computing part of the learning goals for all of today’s engineering students, again more pervasively than what I can see in science or mathematics programs.

Much of my work and my students’ work is about embedding computing education (e.g., Media Computation which embeds computing in the digital media context that students value, or Brian Dorn’s work embedding computing in a graphic design context) and tailoring computing education (e.g., high school CS teachers need something different from software developers). Computing education can be embedded in Engineering classes and tailored for Engineering students, of course. My vision is about embedding and tailoring engineering education.

There are three parts to the story below:

  • Engineering Education for everyone K-16, especially for STEM learners.
  • Reaching a diverse audience for engineering education.
  • Recognizing the differences between Engineering Education research and teaching, and the need for more research on learning outside of the engineering classroom.

In January 2016, President Barack Obama launched the “CS for All” initiative. When he said that he wanted students to be “job-ready,” he wasn’t saying that everyone should be a software engineer. Rather, he was reflecting a modern reality. For every professional software developer, there are four-to-nine end-user-programmers (depending on the study and how you count). Most professionals will likely use some form of programming in the future. That’s an argument for “CS for All.”

We also need Engineering for All. Engineering skills like designing, planning, collaboration on diverse teams, and trouble-shooting are needed across STEM. When I look at bench science, I see the need for engineering — to design, plan, collaborate, debug, and test.

Engineering education researchers know a lot about how to teach those skills. I’d love to learn how to inculcate some engineering perspectives in my CS students. When I see Chemical Engineering students designing a plant, or Civil Engineering students designing a bridge, they predict that they made mistakes, and they look for those mistakes. There’s a humility about their process. CS students often run their program once and turn them in. If you write a hundred lines of code, odds are almost 100% that you made errors. How do we get CS students to think that way?

Engineering for All is different than what professional engineers do, in the same way that what a high school teacher needs is different than what a professional software developer needs. Both need a mental model of the notional machine. A high school teacher also needs to know how students get that wrong, and probably doesn’t need to know about Scrum or GitHub.

I believe that there is a tailored part of engineering education which should be embedded throughout K-16 STEM. The American Society of Engineering Education’s mission is focused on professional engineers, and my proposal does not diminish the importance of that goal. We need more professional engineers, and we need to educate them well. But engineering skills and practices are too important to teach only to the professionals.

Engineering should play a significant role in STEM education policy. Engineering education researchers should own that “E” in STEM. There are many research questions that we have to answer in order to achieve Engineering for All.

  • What is the tailored subset of engineering that should be taught to everyone? To STEM learners?
  • All technically literate US citizens should know far more about engineering than they do today. Here’s a hypothesis: If all US citizens understood what engineering is and what engineers do, we might have less crumbling infrastructure, because we citizens would know that infrastructure is critical and professional engineers design, build, and maintain infrastructure. How do we get there?
  • All K-12 students should have the opportunity to fall in love with engineering. How?
  • Are there limits to what we can teach about engineering in K-16? What learning and cognitive disabilities interfere with learning engineering, and what parts of engineering? I also wonder about the kinds of bias that prevent someone from succeeding in engineering, besides race and gender. For example, here in the South, there are a lot of students who don’t believe in evolution. I’m pretty sure that belief in evolution isn’t necessary for designing a bridge or a distillation column. But someone who believes in intelligent design is going to face a lot of barriers to getting through basic science to become an engineer. Is that how it should be?
  • Engineering should aim to influence K-12 STEM education nationally, in every state.

The American University (particularly the Land Grant University, developed in the late 1800’s) was supposed to blend the German University focus on research and the British focus on undergraduate education. My favorite history of that story is Larry Cuban’s How Scholars Trumped Teachers, but Michael Crow also tells the story well in his book Designing the New American University. We believed that there were synergies between research and teaching. It’s not clear that that’s true.

Research and teaching have different measures of success and don’t feed directly into one another.

Teaching should be measured in terms of student success and at what cost. Cost is always a factor in education. We know from Bloom’s two-sigma 1984 study (and all the follow-ups and replications) that the best education is an individual human tutor for each subject who works with a student to mastery. But we as a society can’t afford that. Everything else we do is a trade-off — we are trying to optimize learning for the cost that we are willing to bear.

Research should be measured in terms of impact — on outcomes, on the research community, on society.

It’s quite likely that the education research on a given campus doesn’t influence teaching practice on the same campus.

I see that in my own work.

We can see the transition for education research idea to impact in teaching practice as an adoption curve. Boyer’s “Scholarship Reconsidered” helps to explain what’s going on and how to support the adoption. There is traditional Scholarship of Discovery, the research that figures out something new. There is Scholarship of Teaching that studies the practice of teaching and learning.

Then there’s Scholarship of Application, which takes results from Discovery into something that teachers can use. We can’t expect research to influence teaching without scholars of application. Someone has to take the good ideas and carry them into practice. Someone has to figure out what practitioners want and need and match it to existing research insights. Done well, scholarship of application should also inform researchers about the open research questions, the challenges yet to be faced.

High-quality teaching for engineering education should use the most effective evidence-based teaching methods.

Good teachers balance teaching for relevance and motivation with teaching for understanding. This is hard to do well. Students want authenticity. They want project-based learning and design. I was at the University of Michigan as project-based learning for science education was first being developed, and we knew that it very often didn’t work. It’s often too complex and leads to failure, in both the project and the learning. Direct instruction is much more efficient for learning, but misses out on the components that inspire, motivate, and engage students. We have to balance these out.

We have to teach for a diverse population of students, which means teaching differently to attract women and members of under-represented groups. In our ICER 2012 paper, we found that encouragement and self-perception of ability are equally important for white and Asian males in terms of intention to persist in computing, but for women and under-represented group students, encouragement matters more than ability in terms of how satisfied they are with computing and intention to persist. This result has been replicated by others. Encouragement of individual students is critical to reach a diverse audience.

An important goal for a first year Engineering program is to explain the relevance of the classes that they’re taking. Larry Cuban tells us that a piece of the British system that got lost by the early 1920’s in the American University was having faculty advisors who would explain how all the classes fit together for a goal. The research on common first year Engineering courses (e.g., merging Physics, Calculus, Engineering in a big 12 credit hour course) shows that they worked because they explained the relevance of courses like Calculus to Engineering students. I know from my work that relevance is critical for retention and transfer.

Do students see relevance of first year Engineering programs? Most first year programs emphasize design and team problem-solving. First year Engineering students don’t know what engineers do. When they’re told “This is Engineering” in their first year, do they believe it? Do they cognitively index it as “real Engineering”? Do they remember those experiences and that learning in their 3rd and 4th years when they are in the relevant classes? I hope so, but I don’t know of evidence that shows us that they do.

Engineering education research, like most discipline-based education research (DBER), is focused on education. I see the study of “education” as being about implementation in a formal system. Education is a design discipline, one of Simon’s Sciences of the Artificial. Robert Glaser referred to education as psychology engineering.

We need more research on Engineering Learning. How do students learn engineering skills and practices, even outside of Engineering classes? How do those practices develop, even if it’s STEM learners and teachers using them and not professional engineers? How should we best teach engineering even if it’s not currently feasible?

That last part is much of what drives my work these days. We’re learning a lot about how great Parsons Problems are for learning CS. Very few CS classes use them. There are reasons why they don’t (e.g., they’re emphasizing the project side of the education spectrum). I’m figuring out how to teach CS well, even if it’s not feasible in current practice. CS teaching practice will eventually hit a paradigm shift, and I’ll have evidence-based practices to offer.

To focus on engineering learning requires work outside the classroom, like Multi-Institutional, Multi-National (MIMN) studies that we use in computing education research, or even laboratory studies. A focus on Engineering Learning creates new opportunities for funding, for audience, and for impact. For example, I could imagine engineering education researchers seeking science education funding to figure out how to teach high school science teachers the engineering that they ought to teach their students — not to introduce engineering, but to make their students better in science.

My vision for engineering education has three parts:

  1. K-16 STEM learners need Engineering for All. Engineering education has more to contribute than just for producing more professional Engineers. Engineering education ought to own the “E” in STEM education policy. Engineering skills and practices can be tailored to different audiences and embedded in STEM education.
  2. Reaching a diverse audience is critical for both research and teaching. For me, that diversity includes the people who need engineering education who aren’t going to become professional engineers, but also people who look different or even have different beliefs.
  3. Finally, research and teaching are different activities, with different measures of success. Teaching should be informed by evidence and be as efficient and effective as possible for a given cost. We need evidence for what we’re doing, and we should gather evidence if we don’t know if what we’re doing is working. Research should focus on what’s possible and on having impact, even if that impact isn’t in the on-campus classrooms. We shouldn’t expect research to impact teaching without explicit investment in adaptation to support adoption.

(Thanks to Barb Ericson, Beth Simon, Leo Porter, and Wendy Newstetter for advice on drafts of this piece.)

March 15, 2017 at 6:00 am 2 comments

Why ‘U.S. News’ should rank colleges and universities according to diversity: Essay from Dean Gary May #CSforAll

Georgia Tech’s Dean of Engineering Gary May was one of the advisors on “Georgia Computes!”  He makes a terrific point in his essay linked below.  Want broadened participation in computing (BPC)? CS for All?  Make diversity count — and rankings are what “counts” in higher education today.

U.S. News & World Report, that heavyweight of the college rankings game, recently hosted a conference focused partially on diversity in higher education. I did an interview for the publication prior to the forum and spoke on a panel at the event.I was happy to do it. As dean of one of the country’s most diverse engineering schools, I am particularly invested in these issues. My panel focused on how to help women and underrepresented minority students succeed in STEM fields, and I’m grateful to U.S. News for leading the discussion.But the publication, for all its noble intentions, could do more to follow through where it counts. Diversity is currently given no weight in the magazine’s primary university and disciplinary rankings, and it’s time for that to change. As U.S. News goes, so goes higher education.

Source: Why ‘U.S. News’ should rank colleges and universities according to diversity (essay)

August 31, 2016 at 7:29 am 1 comment

One reason we have so much engineering and so little computer science taught at US high schools. | ACM Inroads

Joe Kmoch wrote an interesting follow-on to my blog post about why we have so little CS ed in the US.  Why is that engineering is succeeding so much more than CS in high schools in the US?  He suggests that (in part) it’s because engineering is getting the PD right.

I think the reason is that groups like Project Lead the Way (PLTW) offer an “off the shelf” high quality program, vetted by engineers.  The attractiveness of this is that the school and students get access to a number of well-written up-to-date courses and they also get access to intensive professional development for teachers who want to teach a particular PLTW course.  Teachers must not only take but also pass the two-week intensive summer course before being allowed to teach a particular course.  There is regular monitoring of schools in terms of offering a minimal 3-course sequence of engineering courses and evaluating how well these courses are being taught.

In computer science we have really never had such a program available.  The AP is not such a program.  If a school wants to teach a computer science course, they have to find a teacher who is willing to put together a course syllabus, and then teach that course.  (For AP, the course must be audited for fidelity).  There really isn’t any professional development required to teach any kind of computer science course in most states.

via One reason we have so much engineering and so little computer science taught at US high schools. | ACM Inroads.

November 19, 2013 at 1:30 am 2 comments

All-female engineering class and programming academy

In one week, I found two articles about all female programming academy (first quote and link below) and engineering high school class (second link and quote below). Both of them talk about issues of sexism and intimidation that they hope an all-female cohort will help to avoid.

Why just for women? Because some hiring managers, in response to these statistics, are particularly interested in hiring women, Worthy says. “The need is very top-of-mind,” she says. In addition, there are other training options for men, though they aren’t free like the Ada Developers Academy is, she admits. Moreover, some women and girls have encountered sexism in school and training programs themselves; an all-female class may forestall that problem.

The Ada Developers Academy isn’t the only such effort to challenge this trend. A number of other parallel training opportunities for women are also springing up, some for students and some for working women, to help fill jobs and address the growing gender gap in programming.

via Washington State Group Announces One-Year Programming Academy for Women.

Seventeen female students are enrolled in Wisconsin’s first high school class aimed at women in engineering.

Women comprise more than 20% of engineering school graduates but only 11% of practicing engineers, according to the National Science Foundation. Only about 30% of the 14 million Americans who work in manufacturing are women, a study from the National Women’s Law Center noted.

“If we are going to have any hope of replacing all of the retiring baby boomers, we have to get women involved,” Moerchen said.

“It’s a pretty wide gender gap,” Moerchen said, adding that only about three of 35 students in computer-aided machining courses are female.

“The data show that female students are easily intimidated by technology and engineering classes that are traditionally dominated by male students,” Moerchen said.

After researching programs in other states, the Kewaskum teachers said they believed they could create an engineering class specifically for girls that would prepare the students for advanced courses.

via Kewaskum High School launches all-female engineering class.

October 11, 2013 at 1:45 am Leave a comment

Virtual Faculty Communities of Practice to improve instructional practices

Posted to the SIGCSE-Members list — I really like this idea! Our work on DCCE showed that communities of teachers was an effective way of improving teacher’s sense of belonging and desire to improve.  Will it work for faculty?  ASEE is the organization to try!

Greetings SIGCSE,

This is a great opportunity for CS faculty to work with like-minded faculty from across the country to explore and share support for introducing new instructional practices into your classroom.  Please consider this for yourself and pass it on to your colleagues.

Engineering education research has shown that many research-based instructional approaches improve student learning but these have not diffused widely. This is because (1) faculty members find it difficult to acquire the required knowledge and skills by themselves and (2) sustaining the on-going implementation efforts without continued encouragement and support is challenging. This project will explore ways to overcome both obstacles through virtual communities.

ASEE is organizing several web-based faculty communities that will work to develop the group’s understanding of research-based instructional approaches and then support individual members as they implement self-selected new approaches in their classes. We expect participants to be open to this technology-based approach and see themselves as innovators in a new approach to professional development and continuous improvement.
The material below and the project website (http://www.asee.org/asee-vcp) provide more information about these communities and the application process. Questions should be addressed to Rocio Chavela at r.chavela@asee.org.
If you are interested in learning about effective teaching approaches and working with experienced mentors and collaborating colleagues as you begin using these in your classroom, you are encouraged to apply to this program. If you know of others that may be interested, please share this message with them.
Please consider applying for this program and encouraging potentially interested colleagues to apply. Applications are due by Friday, September 13, 2013.
 
———————————– ADDITIONAL DETAILS ABOUT THE PROGRAM ——————————–
Format
Faculty groups, which will effectively become virtual communities of practice (VCP) with 20 to 30 members, will meet weekly at a scheduled time using virtual meeting software during the second half of the Fall 2013 Semester and during the entire Spring 2014 Semester. Each group will be led by two individuals that have implemented research-based approaches for improving student learning, have acquired a reputation for innovation and leadership in their course area, and have completed a series of training sessions to prepare them to lead the virtual communities. Since participants will be expected to begin utilizing some of the new approaches with the help and encouragement of the virtual group, they should be committed to teaching a course in the targeted area during the Spring 2014 Semester.
 
VCP Topics and Meeting Times
This year’s efforts are focusing on required engineering science and design courses that are typically taught in the second and third year in each of the areas listed below.
 
Computer science
Co-leaders are Scott Grissom and Joe Tront
Meeting time is Tuesday at 3:00 – 4:30 p.m. EST starting October 29, 2013 and running until December 17, 2013
 
Application Process
Interested individuals should complete the on-line application at https://www.research.net/s/asee-vcp_application_form_cycle2. The application form asks individuals to describe their experience with relevant engineering science courses, to indicate their involvement in education research and development activities, to summarize any classroom experiences where they have tried something different in their classes, and to discuss their reasons for wanting to participate in the VCP.
 
The applicant’s Department Head or Dean needs to complete an on-line recommendation form at https://www.research.net/s/asee-vcp_recommendation_form_cycle2 to indicate plans for having the applicant teach the selected courses in the Spring 2014 Semester and to briefly discuss why participating in the VCP will be important to the applicant.
Since demonstrating that the VCP approach will benefit relatively inexperienced faculty, applicants do not need a substantial record of involvement in education research and development. For this reason, the applicant’s and the Department Head’s or Dean’s statements about the reasons for participating will be particularly important in selecting participants.
 
Application Deadline
Applications are due by Friday, September 13, 2013. The project team will review all applications and select a set of participants that are diverse in their experience, institutional setting, gender, and ethnicity.
 
————————————————–
Scott Grissom
Professor
School of Computing & Info Systems
Grand Valley State University
 

August 20, 2013 at 1:28 am 2 comments

The challenges of integrated engineering education

I spent a couple days at Michigan State University (July 11-12) learning about integrated engineering education. The idea of integrated engineering education is to get students to see how the mathematics and physics (and other requirements) fit into their goals of becoming engineers. In part, it’s a response to students learning calculus here and physical principles there, but having no idea what role they play when it comes to design and solving real engineering problems. (Computer science hasn’t played a significant role in previous experiments in integrated engineering education, but if one were to do it today, you probably would include CS — that’s why I was invited, as someone interested in CS for other disciplines.)  The results of integrated engineering education are positive, including higher retention (a pretty consistent result across all the examples we saw), higher GPA’s (often), and better learning (some data).

But these programs rarely last. A program at U. Massachusetts-Dartmouth is one of the longest running (9 years), but it’s gone through extensive revision — not clear it’s the same program. These are hard programs to get set up. It is an even bigger challenge  to sustain them.

The programs lie across a spectrum of integration. The most intense was a program at Rose-Hulman that lasted for five years. All the core first year engineering courses were combined in a single 12 credit hour course, co-taught by faculty from all the relevant disciplines. That’s tight integration. On the other end is a program at Wright State University, where the engineering faculty established a course on “Engineering Math” that meets Calculus I requirements for Physics, but is all about solving problems (e.g., using real physical units) that involve calculus. The students still take Calculus I, but later. The result is higher retention and students who get the purpose for the mathematics — but at a cost of greater disconnect between Engineering and mathematics. (No math faculty are involved in the Engineering Math course.)

My most significant insight was: The greater the integration, the greater the need for incentives. And the greater the need for the incentives, the higher in the organization you need support. If you just want to set up a single course to help Engineers understand problem-solving with mathematics, you can do that with your department or school, and you only have to provide incentives to a single faculty member each year. If you want to do something across departments, you need greater incentives to keep it going, and you’ll need multiple chairs or deans. If you want a 12 credit hour course that combines four or five disciplines, maybe you need the Provost or President to make it happen and keep it going.

Overall, I wasn’t convinced that integrated engineering education efforts are worth the costs. Are the results that we have merely a Hawthorne effect?  It’s hard to sustain integrated anything in American universities (as Cuban told us in “How Scholars Trumped Teachers”). (Here’s an interesting review of Cuban’s book.) Retention is good and important (especially of women and under-represented students), but if Engineering programs are already over-subscribed (which many in the workshop were), then why improvement retention of students in the first year if there is no space for them in the latter years? Integration probably leads to better learning, but there are deeper American University structural problems to fix first, which would reduce the costs in doing the right things for learning.

July 29, 2013 at 1:41 am 4 comments

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