Archive for the ‘Socratic Dialogue’ Category

Advice for ASEE

Monday, June 19th, 2006

Moderator: I’m going to apologize to the people who are waiting to ask questions. I think we’re really getting too close to the end of the session to entertain any more questions. You’ve been standing there quite a while. I’m sorry, but we do need to get to our final question and we do need to end on time, so let me go to that final question again.

Panel, we want to give ASEE some advice on the year of dialogue. Rather than telling them what they should be doing perhaps we should tell them what outcomes they should be looking for after the next 12 months. So what advice, Elaine, we’ll start with you, would you give to the ASEE group as it initiates its year of dialogue, on outcomes?

Elaine Seymour: Bearing in mind that people are going to move past a spectrum of change. It’s not an all or nothing thing. People have a range of things which they are enabled to do given the circumstances of their departments and the culture and readiness of those departments to encourage them or not. I would like to see an encouragement of dialogue in every possible way, of possibilities for people to learn, to be professionally developed, colleaguely by each other through workshops and the building and supporting of networks.

The best money you can spend is on money to get people together and to feed them and to house them while they talk.

Moderator: There are what, a dozen sections of ASEE and perhaps you are suggesting that dialogues in each of those sections might be an appropriate thing to do, take note on. Juan?

Juan Rivera: I would say that perhaps ASEE can encourage presidents and provosts of the universities and the academic institutions to make this a priority. I believe that if the leadership does not embrace these topics and these problems that the individuals that implement these changes will not have their whole heart set into these tasks and they will not make them a priority.

Moderator: So these presidents and provosts should also participate in the dialogues that Elaine has suggested.

Juan Rivera: Absolutely.

Moderator: OK. Thank you. David?

David Radcliffe: I think it carries two things, or two outcomes. One would be, gather together models of systems that work in the area of rewards for faculty or other ways to have dialogue and to open up conversations within schools. It might be through deans. It might be through regional meetings. By the end of the year you’ve got a whole lot of models that work and lessons learned from models that didn’t work. They are often the best ones.

My second thing I’ll point to, and don’t take this as a criticism the wrong way, but many of the papers in this conference tend to be more of the “show and tell” and as the papers in this conference increasingly become more reflexive, more referring to the literature, we’ll see that scholar-teacher thing reflected. There’s a lot already, but I think that can move forward, so that would be my other measure of gain.

Moderator: Thank you David. OK, Jeremy?

Jeremy Noonan: I would say it is promulgating standards for what constitutes good education scholarship and educating the community about that.

Moderator: Good suggestion. Gary?

Gary Gabriele: Yes. What I was thinking was at a different level. One of the things I’ve discovered in the last two years I’ve been in Washington is “What is the voice for engineering?” Is there a single voice for engineering out there and I don’t know that there is. I think there’s an opportunity for ASEE to think about that as an outcome, as a vision for where they should head. Become the voice for engineering.

Jim Pellegrino: I’m the, sort of, learning sciences interloper here, so I’m going to come at this at a slightly different angle. I would hope that by the end of this year of dialogue what ASEE could do is promote a clear agenda that defines what are the key issues and questions in teaching and learning in engineering.

In particular I think that what the field continues to struggle with: it needs to define the fields of competence and expertise and what it is that you are trying to get people to be and what the key questions are. The other thing is I think you really need to promote a dialogue about what are the epistemologies about teaching and learning that exist within engineering so that we can begin to get a clearer sense of where people are coming from and how they are approaching the engineering education enterprise right now.

Moderator: Sheri?

Sheri Sheppard: I’m going to take a marketing stand on this. There are a little less than 30,000 engineering faculty in the United States, and probably more if you add in engineering technology faculty. There are roughly 350 engineering schools. So maybe at the end of this year of dialogue each of those communities, and I would say administrators, see that there’s something to this in terms of competitive advantage for their institution in terms of the quality of graduates, and the diversity of their graduates. Each faculty member would have a sense of, “This research actually matters in what I’m going to do in my next class. It can affect how I interact with students.” And, a cadre of zealots, if you will, saying, “How does this fit into my portfolio work that I engage in as a faculty member?” so 30,000 folks.

Moderator: Great suggestion. Norman?

Norman Fortenberry: I live and work in Washington D.C. so I’m going to answer in that context. What I’d like to see at the end of the year of dialogue is an understanding in the public mind that just as research is the base for industrial innovation, research can be the basis for educational innovation and that both are required for global competitiveness. In that vein, then, I’d like to see a lot more dollars devoted to investments to strengthen educational research.

Moderator: Thank you. All good suggestions. Just to show you that we’re already making progress in this area, Sheri Sheppard is listed in your program as Associate Professor of Engineering at Stanford. Mainly due to her prominence in engineering education, she’s recently been promoted to full professor of civil engineering. Congratulations.

Sheri Sheppard: One slight footnote: it takes a community to build a faculty member. Thank you to many of you.

Moderator: I said earlier when I started that we didn’t have enough time to cover all the issues in sufficient depth to please everybody, and I’m sure we’ve accomplished that unfortunate goal. But this is just the beginning. It’s the first day of a year of dialogue and I encourage you to go back to your own community, whether that’s industry, government or academia and begin dialogues there and then participate in the ASEE year of dialogue by filling out the participation card, or contacting J.P. Mohsen at the University of Louisville.

This looks easy to do up here, folks, but these eight panel members were absolutely terrified this morning about what was going to happen. I did not give them any of the questions that I promised that I would give them, so they were really doing this very unrehearsed. I really would appreciate you giving them a real good round of applause.


Ronald Barr: Panel members, we have a small gift of appreciation from ASEE. Thank you very much for a very engaging presentation this morning. Thank you for attending this conference. I hope you enjoy the rest of the meeting. Thank you.

Moderator: Thank you for coming.

Addressing Social Issues

Monday, June 19th, 2006

Moderator: I think we’re going to go on to the next question. This young lady has been waiting forever, so I’m going to ask her to ask her question.

Audience Member: Thank you. Borjana Mikic at Smith College. The comment I want to make goes back to Sherra’s question about problem solvers. Engineers as problem solvers, and the comment in response to that from David about how we educate engineers actually to become problem framers. And then related it again to a comment that was made about how do we get engineers to begin to be able to solve these messier, larger problems. And a lot of this is related to how you develop a sense of identity as an engineer, and what you allow yourself to envision, is the business of engineering. Traditionally, we have not had a very positive view about engineers being agents of social change. If you feel like being someone who’s going to raise the flag on a social issues, you historically don’t go into engineering to address that issue. But we need to begin to address that issue if we want engineers to be addressing these larger, messier, social problems, and not just problems in small boxes. So the question is, is there a place within engineering for that, in the opinion of the panel members, or is that not the business of engineers?

Moderator: Thank you.

Norman Fortenberry: I think, step way out over a limit. I think that in my mind, engineering is fundamentally about systems. It’s about design, and it’s about systems. I define systems as constructs with a set of characteristics. So I think that engineering can be done on a wide array of systems. And if I take that attitude, there’s virtually nothing that can’t be engineered. And I think that unless we take that viewpoint, we lose the opportunity to be involved increasingly in where the most interesting problems are.

Moderator: Sheri?

Sheri Sheppard: I guess, first an engineering comment. Of course engineers can help with the problem. That’s kind of an engineering attitude. I think one of the things the academy hasn’t tackled, along with industry though, is what is the role of a bachelor’s degree in engineering, and what is the role of a master’s degree? And are we trying to do all of this with the bachelor’s, which is constrained? And aren’t we foremost trying to educate citizens who happen to be engineers? And I think somehow that doesn’t get teased out.

Moderator: Gary?

Gary Gabriele: I agree with both Sheri and Norman. I think there is a role and an opportunity within engineering to do these kinds of things, but it has to change. And first, I think engineering faculty have to change it and start to work with colleagues as David does in the social sciences. I’ve done a little bit of it.

You need to start going out and including those folks and bringing those students together so the students can experience the cultures and the different ways that these different groups define problems. And understand that there is a different language, there is a different approach to how they do things. But it requires us, as Norman said, to get to the root of what we do in engineering, which is to take on design in a broader way, take on systems in a broader way than we currently are.

David Radcliffe: I’ll add that I think there’s a place to have a range of engineering outcomes. So you could have some programs that are much broader and on the fringe of engineering, as we might currently understand it. And these will be the people who will be the integraters and the connectors and make the links between the disciplines, some of these others who can go much deeper. So I think we just need to have a more diverse range of programs, which in turn will attract a much more diverse range of interests. And that will open up a new set of identities for the profession.

Moderator: Go ahead. Elaine?

Elaine Seymour: My colleague from Smith who raised the word “identity” reminds me of the question that I was going to answer earlier on. And that is the issue of women in engineering. The issue of gender, which we have not talked about at all. One of the hardest things, I think, for people who have not been well represented, generally in the sciences, math and engineering, whether it’s women or whether it’s people of color, is to find a place in which they feel they belong. And to develop an identity, which is not necessarily and essentially white and male, but which is valid in its own right. In a study that we have been doing of undergraduate research, we noticed that one of the benefits of this kind of immersion, which is similar to the colleague talking about the experience of being an apprentice, the immersion that you get in those kinds of experiences allows people to go through a process of becoming, of identifying, of taking oneself seriously as a young professional. The issue is how you get to that.

Earlier a colleague said, “What do we gain if we get into all of this?” One of the things you gain, if you make your classroom and your lab more active, more interactive, more discovery based, more open to discourse, you gain the women. You gain the folks of color who are looking for those kinds of conversations to go on in the classroom. It’s a rising tide lifts all ships process.

People who are looking for engagement, who are looking for a place to belong and identify, need interaction if they are going to become part of engineering, physics, chemistry, whatever it is. That is to be gained or lost. If you want to make your classroom an attractive and open place for people who have not been represented well in it then you must think of terms of exactly these pedagogues which we have been talking about.

Norman Fortenberry: But increasingly we also gain white males.

Elaine Seymour: Quite true.

Norman Fortenberry: So the old traditional model isn’t working for anyone.

Elaine Seymour: True.

Norman Fortenberry: We’ve got to change again if we want to bring in more people.

Elaine Seymour: True. We did an experiment with small group learning across the chemistry consortia. We did a comparison between the more traditional classes and the classes with the new teaching in them in the same schools. One of the things we looked at was how they did with small group learning. We found, to our pleasure and amusement, that the women in both classes used small groups informally or on any occasion in which they were encouraged to set them up. The men were the big gainers because they were now empowered to actually have these conversations and do things together.

Math, Science, Engineering – Sociologists Are Your Friends

Monday, June 19th, 2006

Moderator: I have a question from this side. Yes?

Audience Member: Good morning, my name is Leonard Uitenham, I’m from North Carolina A&T. I chair the Mechanical Engineering and Chemical Engineering. The question I’d like for the panel to address – you know in engineering one of the challenges we have particularly when you get to the junior and senior levels – we expect the math department to teach them their math and to teach them their science and then they throw them over the fence and then we get them. So the question is, and that’s a paradigm we’ve probably been working with for the past 60 or 70 years, is there some productivity if we try to change that, and allow us to get more of these other kinds of issues in the curriculum?

Moderator: Thank you. Sheri?

Sheri Sheppard: I think what you’re talking about actually is a paradigm shift. If you look at the history of engineering education, we’ve always been tied to math and science being these foundational first two-year things, and then you come over to engineering. So I think there have been some fairly bold experiments that have been run at a number of institutions, funded by NSF, that I’m not sure how well known they are. Of how you try to integrate engineering with math and science from day one.

But I think those are the sort of things we need to start pushing against or for, because the reality is that much of students’ first exposure to engineering is with physics faculty and math faculty. Not that they aren’t great, but they’re not engineers, either.

Moderator: Elaine, are we looking at sociologists and engineers in the same vein?

Elaine Seymour
: I was going to answer now the question, but I’ll answer that if you like. I think sociologists have an enormous amount of fellow thought with engineers. I think they may be the closest social science to engineers, because we both are concerned with real world issues, we’ re concerned with problems, we’re concerned with why things do and don’t work. We’re interested in patterns. So sociologists are your friends, believe me.


My dad was an engineer. I don’t see any difference, in a way, to the concerns that we have. I was going to answer a different question. I can’t think what it was, now.


Norman Fortenberry: Let me pick up briefly on Elaine’s point. I mentioned that I was privileged in March to host a meeting that we convened of engineers and sociologists working together to look at common research issues and the dynamics of on-campus change and innovation in the engineering curriculum. It was a very pleasant day and a half. They actually managed to speak to each other and could understand each other, and came up with a very robust research agenda.

Moderator: Carl?


Moderator: Carl had some interesting statistics over drinks last night about the role of sociologists in papers that were being… Jack Bowman. Jack, are you here? Do you want to comment on the increase in the number of papers accepted if a sociologist is listed as a co-author with an engineer in the Journal of Engineering Education?

Jack Bowman: I’ll give you a sense of context. Carl is editor of the Annals for Research in Engineering Education and there’s an advisory board. That’s what he’s referring to. I reported at this advisory board yesterday, that at least in the Journal of Engineering Education, we’ve gone through an analysis of some of the papers that have been published over the last couple of years. To the extent that there was at least one engineer and one educator meaning, cognitive science, sociologist and so forth on the paper, there’s a 30 percent chance the paper got published. If it was all engineers, it was about two or three percent. So it tells you a little bit about some of the context in which some of this is important.

Moderator: Sociologists are your friends.


Elaine Seymour: I don’t know how to interpret that.

David Radcliffe: … point on that one too. There’s not necessarily a causal relationship on that. But I have a concern that as engineers start to be involved with learning sciences and sociology and anthropology and so on and so forth, there’s a temptation for engineers who are quite confident about doing things to think they can go read a few papers in the area, and then suddenly become an expert in that area rather than working with the colleague from that field.

I have some real concerns that you get instant ethnographers out there, and they haven’t been through the discipline or the apprenticeship or the background reading of it. So that’s a word of warning. I think we sometimes think we can do it all. We can’t, we need to work collaboratively.

Elaine Seymour: You’re right, David. It’s an issue with evaluation particularly. I would encourage anyone who has a program that will need to be evaluated to find good help on your own campus. It’s fine to go out and find an external evaluator. It’ll cost you quite a bit of money. You’d better go and find the people on the other side of the campus who will come and give you a hand and work with them. But don’t reinvent wheels.

Moderator: Thank you. Sheri?

Sheri Sheppard: I think all of this, though, adds another challenge for junior faculty. Because regardless of whether you’re working in engineering education research, if you’re doing any interdisciplinary research as a junior faculty member, you’re kind of at peril in terms of how are you staking out what your contribution is. So whether that’s an E.E. faculty member working with computer science with M.E., know and be able to define what you’re adding to the mix.

What Is the Gain?

Monday, June 19th, 2006

Moderator: I’m really tempted to ask how many zealots we have in the audience by a show of hands, but I’m not going to do that. This young man’s been waiting quite a while so we’re gong to come back to this side. Oh, I’m sorry.

Audience Member: Alan Cheville from Oklahoma State University. I’d like to follow up on something that Elaine said earlier on. I was watching on streaming video Bill Clinton speak at the Montreal Climate Change Conference. He paraphrased Machiavelli by saying the hardest thing any human can attempt is to change an organization or society because everybody in that organization knows exactly what they have to lose. But it’s very very difficult to quantify what they have to gain.

We are a very receptive audience here. But we know when we go back to our home institutions, the audience is not as receptive. So, I’d like to ask the panel, how can we better quantify what gains will be achieved if we succeed with this broad quest for better understanding about how engineers learn, this year of dialogue?

Moderator: Panel? Thank you. Excellent question. It’s so good, nobody wants to take it.

[laughter and applause]

David Radcliffe: Can I come at it another way and suggest it’s about a values fit rather than gain, which is a hard thing to deal with. It’s a values fit. There are a lot of people there where you can tell the story and you can paint a picture where they are going to fit with the values and they’ll come on board relatively quickly. Like any change process, you’re going to get the early adopters and that sort of stuff. There’s always going to be the 40 percent of dinosaurs at the end who are either not going to be here at the paradigm shift or whatever or they’ll retire.

Moderator: Can I have a show of hands of how many dinosaurs we have in the room?


But values fit, I think, is the way to approach the issue rather than gain.

Norman Fortenberry: Related to that issue, is in terms of what we have to gain, or the values fit is that we are struggling now to recruit and retain populations within engineering. If we continue to attract, or continue to teach in ways or continue to teach things that appeal to the same segments that used to come to engineering in droves, who are no longer coming to engineering in droves, we will no longer have anyone in our classrooms. So what we have to gain in an overblown, oversimplified way, is the sustainment of our discipline.


Jeremy Noonan: Is that what’s at stake ultimately? You really believe that the engineering discipline is threatened?

Elaine Seymour: Gary will correct my figures I’m sure if I’m wrong but it’s not so long ago that 25 percent of our Ph.D. students in the STEM disciplines were from overseas. They were born or educated at least overseas. Is the figure now nearer 60 percent?

Gary Gabriele: Yes.

Elaine Seymour: Yes. That’s what we have to lose.

Engineering Education Zealots

Monday, June 19th, 2006

Moderator: I’m going to really confuse our cameraman by moving the microphone right here for the next question. Sorry.

Audience Member: Russell Jones, World Expertise, LLC, and Chair of the International Division of ASEE. Over the past couple of decades, the excitement I have felt in this general area has been intercepted with its coalitions program. It pulled together a series of zealots from disparate campuses and put them together. They became critical mass, people moving engineering education research forward.

NSF in its wisdom chose to walk and do nanotechnology instead. I think that was a mistake. I see some programs being put back that I think are headed in the right direction again. But what that program did was two things. One, it made engineering education research viable on a lot of campuses because it brought money in.

If you look carefully at what engineering education research needs, it’s money because that is what’s respected on our campuses. It didn’t bring in money for biotechnology or composite materials research. If you are a respected researcher, and you want to bring in money for engineering education research it’s hard to find, but unfortunately that’s what makes it credible with deans and provosts. I used to be the sum of each of those.

The real question I have to the panel is are there enough zealots on our campuses today to have a critical mass without coalitions or do we still need some sort of coalition across campuses in order to get a critical mass of people to do good engineering education research?

Moderator: Excellent question Russell, thank you. Comments? Sheri?

Sheri Sheppard: I must say I was one of those zealots back in the early coalition days and did it as an assistant professor which has some issues with it too. I think one of the most important things from my perspective that the coalition program did was bring a critical mass together. I think in some ways the approach we took to the work was a good first cut but it was really at the curriculum level. We were changing courses. It’s now this next wave of NSF grants that’s focused on centers that’s actually getting to research questions.

So I ‘m hopeful that actually the focus of NSF’s funding has shifted from just changing your course to thinking about the higher level issues. Whether there is enough money, I don’t think so because I think the type of projects and programs and problems we’re tackling are interdisciplinary. So it’s not a single researcher tackling a problem. It’s collaborating with someone in the learning sciences so the money has to be enough to get those interdisciplinary projects under way.

Elaine Seymour
: You touched on something that we picked up a little while back and that is how will the change come? How will this happen? How will we turn the beginnings of interest into something that’s serious and a mass movement?

My experience in this is based more with the chemistry consortia with whom I worked for about seven years. One of the things I saw was the power of networks. I saw the generative, creative power of workshops to give people a safe place to retreat from the normal pressures of their work and become learners again, put themselves in a vulnerable position and become learners again.

And through that to make contact not just with people in their own departments who are similarly interested, because often people are lone persons in departments trying to make change on their own. That’s very dangerous. The building of networks across campuses with people in other departments, finding the resources that you need in the social sciences, in education, wherever. Those networks I observed in chemistry are still flourishing.

That is what moves people forward. Meeting the same people, finding ways to piggyback meetings in disciplinary conferences, making room for papers in those conferences, as has happened, that address educational issues and building a community which is across departments, across institutions is, I think, the way we have to move forward.

So anything the NSF and other funders can do to support the workshops, to support the networks so those conversations keep growing and more and more people are drawn into them, that’s the way that change happens. It’s the seduction theory of change.

Moderator: Norman, do we still need collaborations or are the zealots going to replace the collaboration?

Norman Fortenberry: Well, you asked the question initially in terms of are there enough zealots out there. I would assert there are. Let’s start with a base of every engineering faculty member. I think that, by and large, the engineers take pride in their work. If you tell a faculty member that there is a way that you can do a better job in the classroom, it will take a little bit of your time, but you can substantially improve the performance of your students. I think engineers have enough professional pride that they have interest in doing that.

A subset of that population will also become sufficiently intrigued that they will also become more interested in the scholarship of teaching and learning and actually discovery verging on engineering education.

I think we have a population to build from. I think what’s required is to create an environment that will nurture and sustain that population in its work.

Juan Rivera: I think that also what’s needed is market pull from industry and government to identify that this is a needed capability and otherwise the nation will suffer. We will not be advancing unless we implement some of these changes we are talking about.

It is important to identify that there is a need and so that will provide the incentive for the academic institutions to make these changes and create the departments and the programs that we are talking about.

Problem Solvers

Monday, June 19th, 2006

Moderator: Do we have any executive management from a college of engineering that would like to comment from the audience? They are noticeably quiet here.


Audience Member
: Sherra Kerns, executive management from a college of engineering.


Moderator: What school?

Sherra Kerns: Olin College. I’m very intrigued by David’s comment about engineering paradigms, and Jim’s comment about practice, and Sheri’s comment about practice.

So, one definition of engineers are society’s problem solvers. To the extent that that’s an accurate definition, our approaches to engineering education reflect our concepts of how to prepare our students to solve society’s problems. So, to what extent does the panel believe that we as engineering educators are well preparing society’s problem solvers? Looking at these paradigms, first of all we had the science approach, now we’re looking to the practice approach, and David alluded to the break in this paradigm. What’s coming next?

Moderator: Very good question.

David Radcliffe: I’d take slight issue with the first one, well not issue, but I’ll extend the problem solving. I always get upset when I hear my colleagues talk to the freshmen class saying, you’re engineers, you’re going to be problem solvers. I think that so undersells us, and don’t read my comment wrong. If you go back even to the ABET list, and it’s the same in Australia, it says problem identification, problem formulation, problem solving. The danger in looking too much at the problem-solving end of the spectrum is, we get in the commodity end, the sell-buy price, and that’s where you don’t want to be. You really want to be working with the community to work out what are the issues. We’re facing climate change, we’re facing urbanization on a category globally, we’re facing energy, water issues, we’re doing things globally that that the Victorian engineers did essentially in a bit ago.

This is the most exciting time for engineers, and to stimulate the next generation to be involved with the community. So, first of all I’d suggest we need to open it up, in terms of the paradigm, if we know anything about paradigms–you don’t know when they’re going to flip, they flip when they flip, until it happens you don’t know that it’s happened, so you can’t predict a paradigm shift by definition.

Moderator: Other comments?

Gary Gabriele: I completely agree with what David said. I don’t think I could say it better, so I won’t, and I can’t say it with an accent either, so it won’t sound as good.


To Sherra’s question, are we doing it now? And I would say, no, that we’re not. Maybe to simplify it, I think that we’re producing students that maybe can solve industry’s problems but not society’s problems. That requires a different kind of engineering education, maybe a different kind of engineer than we currently educate. I think that’s a really fertile area for discovery.

Research and Teaching

Monday, June 19th, 2006

Moderator: I’ll ask this section again another question from this section. Sir, quickly?

Audience Member: Jim McNeil, Colorado School of Mines. I’m the head of the Engineering Physics Program there and I deal with new faculty all the time. We hire a new faculty member to do research material science, we give them $400,000 or whatever for startup, and if they decide to go into the education research their tenure is in jeopardy. So to those faculty members I say, you stay focused on the research for which you were hired. On the other hand, teaching excellence is of high value at our institution.

So I tell these new faculty, go to the teaching workshops, become knowledgeable, understand the fundamentals of human learning, have a theoretical basis upon which you can build your pedagogic philosophy. Then implement best practices, stay current in education research, go to education conferences, but that is very different than conducting education research.

Moderator: Did you say $400,000?


Moderator: Colorado School of Mines


Moderator: Any comment? Sir?

Gary Gabriele: I think that’s certainly good advice, but I think in the end and hopefully you’ll do this it means something to that young faculty member when they sit down with you at the end of every year and hear about their evaluation. So, I think in the end it still has to come back to have they seen any value and have they been credited for having done that.

Moderator: Sheri?

Sheri Sheppard: You know, I think Jeremy made the comment that he’s hoping other people have cleared the path. In some ways, to be honest with you, Jeremy, you’re creating a new path because the model you were talking about is someone who’s educated, with their Ph.D. in a traditional area, and that’s what they’ve been hired for.
You’re at the front of actually getting your Ph.D. in a new field and saying, this is the main work that I’m bringing to your institution. I really do hope our institutions are going to have their doors wide open to you.

Jeremy Noonan: Well, it’ll be quite a job for me to sell myself.

Jim Pellegrino: The point about encouraging junior faculty to be excellent teachers in the current climate in universities, the typical research side of the tenure portfolio as well as the quality teaching side are becoming increasingly balanced. But I would make a plea, and a concern that I have, is that while we seem to know how to use the wider community to evaluate the quality of research we do that all the time, we are still abysmal in the higher education in terms of evaluating teaching. Quite frankly, that twenty-item bubble sheet that’s completed by the students at the end of each semester is hardly an adequate evaluation of teaching. It’s a beauty contest. Until we equally invest in really evaluating teaching, and having colleagues evaluate their colleagues’ teaching in serious and sustainable ways, where the engineering education community can help as well as others, I don’t think we’re going to see it valued. Because, quite frankly, I put very little faith in the psychometrics as well as the validity of those end-of-course evaluations.

Juan Rivera: I would add that until executive management in the academic institutions make it a priority, as part of the yearly evaluation process, that it won’t get the attention that this deserves.

David Radcliffe: The other piece I’d add based on our history is that we had a system that was developmental, to help new faculty in their teaching. But then the university said, well, we want to measure that at promotion time or tenure time so we’ll take that data. So, suddenly a developmental thing becomes an evaluative thing, and that totally debases it. Trying to have a system that is development, separate from the evaluations is absolutely critical.

Cooperative Education

Monday, June 19th, 2006

Moderator: Great, thank you. Does any one else want to speak for their institution on this topic in this section? Sir, do you want to come up in front real quick? Name, title, and affiliation? Quick. I know where this guy is from.


Audience Member: Good morning panel, I am Harold Simmons, director of cooperative education at Georgia Tech in Atlanta. There is a methodology for teaching engineering to undergraduate students in the United States that has been around for a hundred years and it is called cooperative education where the student spends a term in the classroom and then goes out into industry and spends a term getting practical experience working along side engineers, and then comes back into the classroom in alternating semesters through the latter part of their college undergraduate career.

There are about five hundred schools with engineering programs that practice this type of program in the United States. Do you think this methodology could be applied to teaching the teachers in having them go back and forth from the classroom to a work experience in industry then having them come back into the classroom, to provide or perhaps generate a better teacher. Also, this whole area of cooperative education as a teaching methodology is ripe for research.

Moderator: Thanks, Hal. Comments from the panel? Elaine?

Elaine Seymour
: I think this is another dimension of the issue, that we have to offer and encourage professional development, ongoing professional development. I mentioned earlier the power of workshops over the last 15-20 years in which people help each other, people who have been on the road longer than the newcomers, so it’s insiders helping younger or less experienced insiders. It’s not experts teaching novices, and I think this is a very good model. I’d like to see the NSF fund far more workshops.

Sheri Sheppard: Actually, the concept of faculty going out in industry is an interesting one. Certainly Boeing has been fostering that idea of doing a summer fellowship. NASA has been very supportive of that idea. It actually could have another spin on it: faculty actually learning what it means to be an engineer, because that’s another whole problem we’ve had to tackle. [applause] Learning to be teachers but also learning to be engineers.

Moderator: Well, that’s our next session, I think. That’s a good topic.

David Radcliffe: In my role I spend three days a weeks in industry and the other two on campus, and I have graduate students who spend their time in industry as well doing their research on the practice of engineering, as well as doing the actual work. So, we’re actually modeling that idea of co-op at the next level.

Moderator: Jim?

Jim Pellegrino: I think that the idea of field-based work and apprenticeships is a terrific one. I’d suggest that sometimes it’s useful to look at models elsewhere. In Europe, particularly in Germany, they have a very elaborate system for connecting in what they call vocational education. It’s not vocational education the way we think about it in the United States, it has to do essentially with connecting the university to the skills of the workplace. The other caution, I would say though, is that apprenticeship or going out into the field is not a panacea. We’ve seen the problems in teacher education. You have to be very careful to monitor the quality of the placements, the quality of the experiences because you can end up with very variable propositions in terms of what people actually learn if you just put them out on the field. The mentoring that goes on is highly variable.

Get Rid of the Bins

Monday, June 19th, 2006

Moderator: We have a lady who has been standing here quite a while waiting for the next question. Can you give us your name, title, affiliation, and a brief question or comment?

Audience Member: I am Donna Riley, I am from Smith College in Massachusetts, and I have two comments. One is a suggestion for Jeremy as someone who is coming up for tenure in the fall and who has research and engineering education. I have one word of advice, get rid of the bins.


Moderator: How does he do that?

Donna Riley: I think you have to start with yourself, do it internally and you just have to think about how things flow together. The institution may still look at the bins but you can tell your own story and you can cast it in the way that you want.

Moderator: Is that going to work, panel? Good suggestion, bad suggestion?

Gary Gabriele: I think it is a good suggestion, I mean my own personal experience and my own personal advice to young faculty is that you should be doing something you enjoy doing. If what you enjoy doing is engineering education research, as I know Donna is doing, then you should do it there and if it puts you at jeopardy at that institution, maybe you are at the wrong institution.

Jeremy Noonan: I do not think anyone would hire me if they did not want me to do engineering education research at their institution because that is what I am going to be trying to do.

David Radcliffe: I came from an institution where they used to have two categories, there was “a” and “b”. You have to tick the box, you have excellent research in science and teaching. I actually wrote “c”. I will not tell you how the application went, but I am promoted, so…


Moderator: Did you have another comment?

Donna Riley: I suggest also that we begin a conversation about how institutions change because my institution when I arrived was not recognizing engineering education as a legitimate form of scholarship for our tenure evaluations and that has changed. There are a number of things that have happened within our institution that have allowed for that. I think the same thing would be true at Purdue in starting their center and their strategy that I think we could have a conversation about in this year of dialogue.

Teaching the TA to Teach

Monday, June 19th, 2006

Moderator: Richard Felder, I think, is in the audience and I am going to quote him again because it is appropriate at this point. Richard said, “College teaching may be the only skilled profession for which no preparation or training is provided or required. You get a Ph.D., you join a faculty, and they show you your office and tell you by the way you are teaching 205 next semester, see you later. The result is the consistent use of teaching techniques that have repeatedly been shown to be ineffective at promoting learning.” Richard, did I quote you correctly? I think that’s on your website.


Moderator: Richard’s here. Any comments on what Richard says? You mentioned TAs not being prepared, that is very appropriate.

Juan Rivera: From personal experience when I was a teaching assistant, that mirrors the exact process I went through. I was asked to be a teaching assistant, I was handed a book and told, “Here, go for it, figure it out.”

Elaine Seymour: And it is an opportunity lost, missed, because if you’re going to find enthusiasm for something new, and setting right things that did not work in one’s own education you will find it amongst graduate students who understand the problem and have the energy and the open-eyed possibilities of doing something about it. So it is an opportunity.

Moderator: Norman, you haven’t spoken.

Norman Fortenberry: More fundamentally we have to not only deal with an inattention to instruction and TAs, we have to deal with active hostility. There are students I could quote who sneak around to take a teaching class because they are personally interested in teaching better but they are afraid that if their major professor finds out they will not be regarded as being serious about their real research and we have to change that.

Moderator: Sheri, I will give you the final comment here.

Sheri Sheppard: Two hopeful activities along these lines, one is CIRTL which is an NSF sponsored center that is at the University of Wisconsin and with other institutions that is looking at science, technology, engineering, and math education of Ph.D. students. So how do you integrate in a not covert, but overt manner of students learning how to teach?

The second is just making it more public generally, and NSF again has made for career awards a statement of teaching as really a part of that dossier.