Continuing the Dialog: Possibilities for Community Action Research in Engineering Education

Article excerpt

During the past several years, there have been a number of reports outlining problems in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) undergraduate education and recommending improvements in those fields. The National Academy of Engineering (2004, 2008) Association of American Universities (2011), National Research Council (2007, 2010) and the National Science Board (2007) have all called for widespread improvements in undergraduate STEM education. One key argument in these reports is that the results of engineering education research have, for the most part, not been broadly adopted in the engineering classroom. While many of these reports present compelling visions for the future, they offer few specific suggestions for how to achieve their goals.

More recently, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) issued a report tided Engage to Excel'm which they make five key recommendations for preparing 1 million additional STrLM college graduates in die next decade. They recommend: "(1) catalyze widespread adoption of empirically validated teaching practices; (2) advocate and provide support for replacing standard laboratory courses with discoverybased research courses; (3) launch a national experiment in postsecondary mathematics education to address the mathematics-preparation gap; (4) encourage partnerships among stakeholders to diversify pathways to STEM careers; and (5) create a Presidential Council on STEM Education with leadership from the academic and business communities..." (President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, 2012).

ASEE's Innovation with Impact (IwI) report, which will soon be released, focuses on specific actions that a variety of stakeholders, including individual engineering faculty members, professional societies, industry, and accrediting agencies can take to improve engineering education and, ultimately, student learning and engagement in the engineering profession. Specifically, "(1) value and expect career-long professional development for faculty and administrators; (2) expand collaborations between engineering, other disciplines, and other parts of die educational system; (3) continue efforts to make engineering programs more engaging, relevant and welcoming; (4) increase resources for engineering teaching, learning, and educational innovation; (5) raise awareness of proven principles and effective practices; and (6-7) conduct periodic self-assessments to measure progress at the institution and community levels" (ASEE, in press).

In fact, die writing and evaluation processes of the report were specifically designed to engage the U.S. engineering education community in a years-long reflection and dialog about their educational practices. Following earlier planning in 2006 ASEE hosted a "Year of Dialog" which included extensive discussions among engineering educators at the annual ASEE conference as well as at regional ASEE events.

The Year of Dialog fed into a project, funded by ASEE and the National Science Foundation and led by Jack Lohmann and Leah Jamieson, which resulted in a Phase 1 report, Creating a Culture of Scholarly and Systematic Innovation in Engineering Education (CCSSIEE) (ASEE, 2009).The CCSSIEEiepon argued that

Most reports on engineering education emphasize 'what' needs to be changed. 'How' the change should be driven and 'who' should drive the change - both of which largely determined how quickly and how well change occurs and how it is sustained - have not been as fully addressed

(p.l). The report recommended trie model of a collaborative community of engineering education researchers and engineering education practitioners concurrently advancing knowledge on engineering learning and improving classroom practice to the ultimate benefit of engineering students.

Phase 2 was launched immediately after the Phase 1 report was presented as the main plenary at the 2009 ASEE conference. …