Matthew West

Sustaining innovation in engineering education through faculty communities

G. L. Herman, L. D. Hahn, and M. West

in Proceedings of the 123rd American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition (ASEE 2016), Paper ID #16921, 2016.

Improving the quality of engineering education requires that we not only understand what teaching methods are effective but also why faculty choose to adopt and continue to use those teaching methods. Studies guided by the Diffusion of Innovations has shown that faculty are generally aware of RBIS, but either fail to incorporate them into their teaching methods or they quickly abandon their adoption of RBIS shortly after beginning to use them. The first challenge suggests that faculty need to perceive the value that RBIS bring to their own classrooms. The second challenge of “adopt and drop,” suggests that faculty need support structures or supportive environments that enable them to continue using RBIS. Critically, these findings are robust across organization types as both teaching-focused and research-focused institutions face similar challenges. These findings suggest that common concerns about tenure and promotion practices may not be as prominent a barrier to effective instruction and the adoption of RBIS as many faculty intuitively expect. At a large Midwestern, research-intensive university, the college of engineering has been deploying the Strategic Instructional Innovations Program (SIIP) to support faculty-led innovation of teaching practices. The primary emphasis of SIIP has been the creation of communities of tenure-track and specialized faculty that will motivate faculty to adopt RBIS and then sustain their use beyond the initial financial investment in creating that community. The emphasis on community simultaneously addresses both challenges identified in the literature. When tenure-track faculty are the champions for the adoption of RBIS, they are better able to communicate the value of RBIS and encourage their adoption by other tenure-track faculty. Additionally, the creation of communities creates communities of practice that situate learning, enabling organic faculty development and mutually-supportive relationships. These new communally-oriented teaching environments create new value for participation in the use of RBIS. In this paper, we describe SIIP and how we have progressively supported the development of faculty teaching communities over the life of the program. We provide evidence that SIIP has not only increased the use of RBIS, but is also sustaining their use beyond the initial financial investments in the creation of those communities.

DOI: 10.18260/p.25993

Full text: HeHaWe2016.pdf