Academic journal article
By Borrego, Maura; Froyd, Jeffrey E.; Hall, T. Simin
Journal of Engineering Education , Vol. 99, No. 3
Despite decades of effort focused on improvement of engineering education, many recent advances have not resulted in systemic change. Diffusion of innovations theory is used to better understand this phenomenon.
Research questions include: How widespread is awareness and adoption of established engineering education innovations? Are there differences by discipline or institutional type? How do engineering department chairs find out about engineering education innovations? What factors do engineering department chairs cite as important in adoption decisions?
U.S. engineering department chairs were surveyed regarding their awareness and department use of seven engineering education innovations. One hundred ninety-seven usable responses are presented primarily as categorical data with Chi square tests where relevant.
Overall, the awareness rate was 82 percent, while the adoption rate was 47 percent. Eighty-two percent of engineering departments employ student-active pedagogies (the highest). Mechanical and civil engineering had the highest rates, in part due to many design-related innovations in the survey. Few differences by institution type were evident. In the past, word of mouth and presentations were far more effective than publications in alerting department chairs to the innovations. Department chairs cited financial resources, faculty time and attitudes, and student satisfaction and learning as major considerations in adoption decisions.
The importance of disciplinary networks was evident during survey administration and in the results. Specific recommendations are offered to employ these networks and the engineering professional societies for future engineering education improvement efforts.
change, diffusion of innovations, faculty development
Over the past two decades, tremendous effort has been invested in improving engineering education, producing advances such as student-centered pedagogies, the introduction of design and other engineering concepts and experiences earlier in the curriculum, better understanding of the role of assessment, and new ideas on how to recruit, retain, and graduate underrepresented groups. Sadly, "these changes. . .have not resulted in major systemic change within engineering education" (National Science Foundation, 2008). It is clear that propagating these innovations from the institutions at which they were developed to more widespread use requires additional attention (Brainard, 2007; Ertmer, 1999; George and Home, 1998; NSF, 1996). A number of reports call for "collective action" to connect and build upon STEM education initiatives (Project Kaleidoscope, 2002), specifically to support rapid dissemination of successful educational innovations (Fox and Hackerman, 2003). Among organized efforts to disseminate engineering education findings are the National Digital Science Library (Zia, 2001), Peer Reviewed Research Offering Validation of Effective and Innovative Teaching (PR2OVE-IT) (Lovitts and Fortenberry, 2006), long-running workshop programs such as the National Effective Teaching Institute (NETI) (Felder and Brent, 2010), and The Science and Engineering Education Scholars Program (Matsumoto et al., 1998).
Experienced STEM education researchers know that disseminating their innovations, together with compelling assessment results, is necessary - but not sufficient - to stimulate faculty to change their teaching practices (Foertsch et al., 1997; Silverthorn, Thorn, and Svinicki, 2006). Within U.S. engineering education, this realization was translated into a call for more rigorous - and therefore more convincing - research (Borrego, 2007; Gabriele, 2005). However, widespread change, recommended in such widelycited works such as Engineer of 2020 (National Academy of Engineering, 2004, 2005) and How People Learn (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 2000), requires more than compelling results, as evidenced by the experience of the U. …