Engineering Education Research and Development in Curriculum and Instruction

Engineering Education Research and Development in Curriculum and Instruction

Engineering Education Research and Development in Curriculum and Instruction by John Heywood

Preface to Engineering Education eBook

Historically the Education Research and Methods Division (EM) of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) has provided leadership in research and innovation in teaching engineering.

Five or so years ago the Division began to review its role and to look to the future. This book arose out of these discussions.

As part of my contribution to the debate, as a result of discussions with the group, I produced a paper on the need for instructional leadership in engineering education.

It was used as a background paper for a seminar organized by the ERM Division at the Kansas City Frontiers in Education Conference (AD 2000), and it was published in the conference proceedings.

When I revised and extended this paper I replaced the term instructional leader with that of curriculum leader.

This extended version of the paper was used as a background report for the Forum on Engineering Education Leadership that resulted from the Kansas City seminar.

Dick Culver, in his introduction to the Forum, used Astin’s recently published definition of leadership to focus on the purposes of the Forum.

He summarized it as follows: “Leadership involves fostering change, implies intentionality, is inherently value-based, is by definition a group process, and thus depends on collaboration ”‘ Or, to put it in the way of the New Shorter Oxford Dictionary (1993) it is the ability “to lead or influence. ”

Culver took the view that this necessarily involved change, thus by definition a leader is a change agent.

Culver argued that while there was a substantial body of research that supported the need for new approaches to teaching in higher education, this knowledge remained the preserve of educational researchers and a few dedicated teachers.

The first objective of this book is to make the knowledge accumulated from research and innovation in the curriculum and instruction in engineering education more generally available.

Methods based on research in cognitive science are the educational equivalents ofpolio vaccine and penicillin.

Yet few outside the educational research community are aware of these breakthroughs or understand the research that makes them possible.

This is the case worldwide, irrespective of the drive in some countries to evaluate university teaching. If evaluations are done by peers, then it is the case of the ignorant (I do not mean to deprecate) leading the ignorant, and such assessments are often carried out within a very limited notion of what constitutes good or effective teaching.

Teachers in higher education are accountable, if only to their profession. If they believe they are an expert profession, then they have obligation not only to ensure that beginning teachers have an adequate training but to be aware of the pedagogical knowledge that is available to inform the curriculum process. But there is another argument.

It stems from the fact that teachers in higher education value research in their own subjects. It is, therefore, surprising that the notion that teaching and learning should be informed by research has not pervaded the teaching profession in higher education.

Patricia Cross has argued that teaching will not become a respectable activity until teachers treat their classrooms as laboratories for research.2 To encourage the development of this idea, Tom Angelo and Patricia Cross worked with teachers to develop and evaluate 50 techniques of classroom assessment.

They are intended to help “individual college teachers obtain useful feedback on what, how much and how well their students are learning.

Faculty can then use this information to refocus their teaching to help students make their learning more efjcient and more effective.”’

Another approach is to learn through more formal research into one’s classroom practices, and even more generally into other dimensions of the curriculum process.

Among others, Patricia Cross and Mimi Steadman as well as this writer have illustrated how this can be done.4 There are several examples of such research in recent publications of the Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conferences and the Proceedings of the Frontiers in Education conferences. Some provide major contributions to educational knowledge.

While the first objective of this study is to provide an illustrative review of research and development in engineering education since 1960; the second objective is with the examples given to encourage the practice of classroom assessment and research.

Classroom assessment and classroom research require different levels of expertise. In the case of classroom assessment, teachers need not be necessarily exposed to a formal course of training since learning about learning is accomplished through the implementation of classroom assessment techniques. It is a level 1 of teaching expertise.

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