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Engineering Curricula: Understanding the Design Space and Exploiting the Opportunities, Summary of a Workshop 3 Specific Observations Specific observations during the breakout sessions were recorded and grouped into the following themes: (a) the need to expand faculty and administrator communication networks, (b) the need to increase instructor incentives, and (c) the importance of developing more interaction with stakeholders. In the following section, the specific observations from the workshop are considered in context of one of these three themes. EXPAND FACULTY AND ADMINISTRATOR COMMUNICATION NETWORKS Most of the keynote and panel presenters urged engineering faculty and administrators to increase their levels of connectivity and communicative capacity within the field of engineering, as well as with other disciplines. The importance of communicating across disciplinary boundaries was heavily emphasized in Goldberg’s presentation. Some workshop participants expressed the view that such moves were a prerequisite to meeting Vest’s goal of reaping benefits from bridging the frontiers between micro-level systems, such as biological and nanotechnological, become bridged with macro-level systems, like energy, the environment, health care, and manufacturing. Options offered by various individuals as possible means to address this need include the following: A website detailing promising engineering practices drawn from across the globe could serve as a meso level (between the macro and micro levels) connector. While meetings and conferences occasionally gather engineering educators, researchers, and innovators together physically, an online presence would allow for the field to connect intellectually without temporal or geographic restrictions. A conceptual example is offered by the Peer Reviewed Research Offering Validation of Effective and Innovative Teaching (PR2OVE-IT) web site18. Social networking sites devoted to engineering education could facilitate the sharing of educational resources and innovations including providing a mechanism for users to become familiar with projects outside their individual specialties. Similar to the system used by social facilitation websites such as Facebook, those in the engineering community could seamlessly interact with others through networks based on professional society, research interests, geographic region, or any number of categories. Because of the popularity and ease of use of this technology, it would also appeal to domestic and international current or prospective engineering students. An example of such a site applied in a technical domain is Purdue’s NanoHub19. 18 PR2OVE-IT Peer Reviewed Research Offering Validation of Effective and Innovative Teaching http://www.pr2ove-it.org [Accessed May 6, 2009]. 19 nanoHub.org Online Simulation and More http://nanohub.org/ [Accessed May 6, 2009].
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Engineering Curricula: Understanding the Design Space and Exploiting the Opportunities, Summary of a Workshop INCREASE FACULTY INCENTIVES In their talks, Fromm, Bordogna, Flowers, Duderstadt, and Goldberg variously made the point that there is an on-going need for educational innovation, integration of research and education, and cross-disciplinary synthesis. During breakout section discussions, workshop participants generally agreed that much of the needed change was unlikely to occur unless faculty at all levels, including graduate students as future faculty, were provided with the incentives necessary for them to seriously engage in conducting education research as well as the scholarly teaching that translates education research and traditional engineering research into improved practice. Among the possible incentives identified by various individuals were the following: Explicit attention to education research, curricular innovation, and scholarly teaching in tenure and promotion criteria, Greatly expanded opportunities for grant funding for education-focused activities at NSF and other federal agencies including the education aspect of NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) awards, Demonstrable institutional support, such as graduate student support and other allocations of internal funds, for education research, curricular innovation and scholarly teaching, Public recognition of institutional excellence in education research and curricular innovation such as that provided by the National Research Council rankings departments in terms of technical and scientific research, and Agreement that the ABET General Criterion 6 on faculty qualifications requires faculty demonstration of continuing attention to their instructional skills (e.g., regular participation in professional development activities). ENHANCE INTERACTIONS AMONG STAKEHOLDERS OF ENGINEERING EDUCATION In their remarks, Orsak, Bordogna and Duderstadt placed great emphasis on the need to broadly engage the stakeholders of engineering education including faculty and administrators, employers, and students. Some workshop participants expressed the view that engineering education could be improved through more regular and structured interaction among these groups. Ideas offered by individual participants included the following: Actively engage undergraduate and graduate students as collaborators in educational innovations. Olin College very effectively did this in the design of its curriculum.
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Engineering Curricula: Understanding the Design Space and Exploiting the Opportunities, Summary of a Workshop Rather than engaging in episodic cycles of “reform,” adapt a purposeful engineering approach of research, development, and innovation to the process of engineering education. Resurrect a version of NSF’s now-defunct Institution-wide Reform program that recognizes changes to entire engineering colleges that change and facilitate prize winners to communicate change with others. Workshop participants were uniformly enthusiastic about the discussions held and hopeful that the engineering community could be stimulated to further the discussion in a variety of forums, while many might assert that we know what needs to be done and it’s time to get on with it. In order to be made realizable, the broad themes offered above would have to be fleshed out within the context of individual engineering disciplines and on individual campuses where engineering faculty can take ownership and advance progress to achieving Vest’s vision of engineering learning environments that are “exciting, creative, adventurous, rigorous, demanding, and empowering.”