Gathering your scholarly community online: B-EER in a Nutshell!

This blog post highlights opportunities I see for building research capacity and sense of community — for networking and sharing knowledge among academics. We’ve being doing some fun and interesting things in Engineering Education Research (EER) and I’m posting help transfer some of this learning to other subfields of education. 

I’ll summarize what we’ve been doing to build community and share knowledge across the EER community globally. Fun communal learning activities have included small group chats, REEN working meetings, MCAA-UK social events, IFEES GEDC online seminars, and of course, the Big EER Meet Up (B-EER)!

Small group chats

I’ve been learning new things everyday, particularly through text chats with Drs. Inês Direito in London, Lelanie Smith in Pretoria SA, and Carlos Efren Mora in the Canary Islands of Spain.

We’re applying the sorts of knowledge-sharing and group-building techniques discussed in a TU Dublin staff training session yesterday. From a colleague’s comment, I found tips from Arizona State University for helping students build a sense of community. I even passed it along to my partner Aongus as he’s starting a certification course online soon and can benefit from the tips; like me, he enjoys classroom interaction and will miss that studying online.

Inês and lelanie, Carlos and I have been chatting virtually about mutual research interests, teaching and student-engagement techniques, and grants for over a year now. We mentor each other.

REEN collaboration

Our Research in Engineering Education Network (REEN) Board meets online every month so we’d already gotten pretty good at sharing ideas this way. We share video, audio, and text chat using, currently, MS Teams. We put our agenda in Google Docs and make revisions, converting them into minutes, together online as we meet.

I’m proud to serve as the Chair of REEN, which helps bring the global community of engineering education researchers together through symposia, special focus journal publications, and focused events to build knowledge, capacity/agency, and a sense of community.

The Governing Board is responsible for implementing the mission and goals of REEN by providing strategic direction, continuity, and overall leadership. Each representative serves a four-year term. The main commitment is a 1-hour meeting (held online) once a month, and members are asked also to provide a bit of time between monthly meetings for project work such as: supporting the symposium (e.g., reviewing abstracts and papers), development of special focus journal issues, or serving on special-focus ad hoc subcommittees. We currently have a call for two new positions. Please see our official call document.

REEN recently helped organize the B-EER Meet Up, described at the bottom of this post. We see it as a great way to bring our global EER community together and galvanize connections! 

MCAA-UK socials

Being at home more means I’ve had better chance to attend meetings outside Ireland. I’m in the Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA) and have been attending meetings and online socials of the MCAA Chapter in the UK the past couple months. Leaders of MCAA-UK introduced me to the paper that I used as inspiration for my B-EER coffee chat featured in an earlier post.

Our May 20th online social of the MCAA-UK

IFEES GEDC online seminars

I’ve also attended several of the now-weekly IFEES GEDC online seminars, featuring well-known and highly accomplished scholars in EER. These are big, high-profile events with up to 500 participants each. There are usually people waiting at the “door” to get in after they’ve reached maximum capacity. At the end, a few people get to ask questions, but there’s not much room to interact in this forum. Nevertheless, I’m getting to hear speakers I couldn’t otherwise (during the teaching semester at least), because I wouldn’t be able to travel to them!

A fascinating recent lecture was on “Problem-based Megaprojects” conducted at Aalborg University. The presentation was by Drs. Anette Kolmos and Lykke Brogaard Berte.

B-EER Meet Up

I haven’t actually summarized the outcome of the Bigg EER Meet Up that I announced for registration in early May. So here you go!

We held our first Big EER Meet Up online throughout the day on May 14th, 2020. The event was spearheaded by Professor John Mitchell, a Director of the Centre for Engineering Education at University College London (UCL). Co-sponsors included REEN and other organizations near and dear to my heart — including TU Dublin’s CREATE research group, Virginia Tech, and UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education (CEE) — as well as Aalborg University’s Centre for PBL, Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education, the Technological University of Malaysia (UTM), and the University of Western Australia (UWA). You can view introductory information on a previous post.

We put this event together in just two weeks, and 550 people registered! The event included seven keynotes — mostly early career researchers (ECRs) and one emeritus professor — and seven break out sessions. We had close to 250 attend each keynote session, and the breakout (coffee break) sessions ranged from about 35 to 90. One session was still going with 60 people in it two hours later! You can access a compilation of the recorded keynote sessions and abstract of coffee chats on a UCL webpage.

I previously posted a blog about one of the keynotes, on Grit in Engineering.

Below is a screenshot of a super-interesting presentation by Dr. Kerrie Douglas of Purdue University, reporting her research on Student Experience and Social Supports in Online Engineering Courses During COVID-19.

Research on post-COVID student experience by Dr Kerrie Douglas of Purdue University. You can view her presentation at https://youtu.be/eZ6pMFWgIq4

I’d say the event was a big success! Productively informal, well attended, with lots of positive vibe and momentum. This is the type of community I want to build and be part of! Yes, there’s room for critical perspectives, but we truly are about lifting each other and the quality of our work UP, as a way to better serve students and one another.

Prof. John Mitchell believes “our best work comes in the discussions and so this was a deliberate attempt to promote that”. After the event, several early and mid-career research told me this provided an introduction to the EER community, good networking, and ability to attend as they can’t always afford the time and costs of attending EER conferences in person (many have technical conferences to attend and fund as well).

Evidently, this Meet Up format helped a gap by providing a more casual and interactive option, online and at low cost. Thanks so much, UCL, for funding the event!

Dr. Karrie Douglas answering questions following her online presentation.

We’ve decided to keep building the capacity of this community by keeping the Meet Ups rolling.

We now envision hosting a mini Meet Up every 4-6 weeks during Work From Home periods, to be organized primarily by UCL and REEN. I’ve recommended this condensed version be just one “slot” long and that it rotate between the three slots we used previously (starting at 11:30 PM, 11 AM, and 4 PM BST to comfortably involve people in all time zones). I’ve recommended that we hold a Big EER Meet Up every 6-12 months as well.

Mini Meet Ups will likely include 2-3 keynotes with at least half featuring early career researchers, then one mid- to late-career researcher presenting per Meet Up to help draw a bigger audience. 

We’re now planning a mini Meet Up for International Women in Engineering on the 23rd June — an EER session with a focus on diversity in engineering. Stay tuned!

Final Report of my MSCA Individual Fellowship

My Marie Curie fellowship ended the last day of 2019 and I had 60 days to complete my final report. For Marie Curie Research Fellows, it can be difficult to figure out what will be required for reporting, based on discussion threads I read online.

Fellows don’t have much indication of what the report will entail until the European Commission’s “Participant Portal” invites them to submit the final report. Even then, it’s not clear how long the descriptions will need to be or where the report template is located. Only after you enter the text for the public statements, will the system inform you how long the text must be. Surprises I encountered in the official reporting process: The text you post for the public is limited to just 7480 characters! There’s specific button you’ve got to locate that contains the blank PDF template for the full report.

This blog post contains the public synopsis of my 2018-2019 project as well as a link to a PDF of the full report, which uses the required template and thus may be of help to other fellows:

I’ve posted this blog for (a) people interested in the research I’ve done and also (b) other MSCA fellows who have questions about the reporting process. This particular post shares my short, public synopsis (below). It’s likely I’ll post more detailed info in coming blogs, along with photos of the MSCA grant period that I’ve never posted before.

Getting the photos loaded onto WordPress has provided me a pleasant trip down memory lane. I plan to share more of these in coming posts.

Public Synopsis

1Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project (For the final period, include the conclusions of the action)

This section should include information on:

  • What is the problem/issue being addressed?
  • Why is it important for society?
  • What are the overall objectives?

The Action “Designing Engineers: Harnessing the Power of Design Projects to Spur Cognitive and Epistemological Development of STEM Students” looks at how engineering and architecture students learn, and how design projects and teamwork affect students’ thinking and overall development. The research questions how students learn to design and how their thinking changes over time with regard to what knowledge is, where it comes from, and how it gets validated; their views on this constitute their epistemologies. Such topics are important because society needs more engineers and more STEM graduates. Not only is there widespread lack of engagement, but problems also have been identified in graduate engineers’ ability to think holistically—today’s graduates do not seem prepared to identify and address global challenges in the comprehensive way society needs. Although engineering is often perceived as a dry, technical subject there is great room for creativity.

Architecture programs around the world are filled with highly engaged students. In engineering, there has been a move to teach in more active, hands-on, project-based ways that incorporate design, as done in architecture. Engineering can learn from architecture’s historic success in engaging and teaching students to design, but engineering has placed more focus than architecture has on understanding how students learn. The fields of engineering and architecture education have much to learn from each other. 

Objectives of this Marie Skłodowska Curie Action (MSCA) have been to (a) develop and promote better ways to teach and support STEM students; (b) help transform engineering into a more diverse and creative field; and (c) investigate questions surrounding the theme, To what extents do design projects influence the cognitive and epistemological development of undergraduates in engineering and architecture? A parallel goal of the MSCA Individual Fellowship is to foster the development of the individual researcher (that’s me!).

2Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far (For the final period please include an overview of the results and their exploitation and dissemination)

Work was conducted via 6 work packages (WPs). WP1 comprised 3 qualitative research studies that yielded 4 conference publications and 1 journal publication to date, with an additional 3 conference publications and 2 journal manuscripts underway. WP2 sought to build skill with multiple research methodologies. In it, the Fellow delivered 5 conference presentations, 3 published journal articles, and 1 encyclopedia entry, with 2 conference manuscripts underway. WP3 involved developing a special-focus journal issue. The Fellow exceeded goals by spearheading development of 2 different special focus journal issues (published 2018 & 2019). The Fellow is leading the development of a third special focus issue (for 2020). In WP4, the Fellow delivered 20 public engagement activities to popularize STEM and communicate findings. In WP5, for researcher training and transfer-of-knowledge, the Fellow attended 70 intensive training workshops and multi-day conferences. She provided leadership in publishing and research at university, national, and international levels. To transfer of knowledge, she conducted 18 workshops for researchers and educators; she provided supervision and mentoring for early career researchers. She was appointed Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on Education, Editorial Board member of the European Journal of Engineering Education, and serves as Chair of the global Research in Engineering Education Network (REEN). During the grant, she earned a teaching qualification in the UK (SFHEA) and secured €56,000 (as co-PI) for education projects in Spain, a £11,200 donation to UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education from the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineers via EWBUK, and €237,727 in contract work from UCL Consulting. The project was managed under WP6.

Results of this MSCA are reported in: (1) forthcoming papers on how architecture and civil engineering students conceptualize design creation and knowledge generation; (2) forthcoming papers on ethics, sustainability/SDGs and early-career engineers from a study on UK civil engineers’ practices and perceptions of global responsibility; (3) papers about women’s experiences studying engineering including a longitudinal study (that uses data collected over four years in Ireland regarding Middle Eastern women’s experiences studying engineering abroad) and analysis using the framework known as A Hero’s Journey (of a single mother’s challenges and successes studying and working in engineering); (4) a systematic review of grit in engineering education; a multi-method study of engineering teachers’ experiences implementing problem based learning (PBL). The data sets collected during this MSCA will inform and enhance dozens of publications in the coming years, in addition to the ones produced and published during the fellowship itself.

3Progress beyond the state of the art, expected results until the end of the project and potential impacts (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

This MSCA has pushed the frontiers of engineering education research (EER) forward in a numerous ways. The 2 special focus issues the Fellow spearheaded have shed new light onto socio-cultural diversity and engineering students’ identity formation and epistemic development. The educational blogs, STEM activity books for kids, and fun, creative events conducted by the Fellow are helping popularize engineering—the first STEM book was nominated for an award of excellence in the UK. The engineering education journals, and the workshops and community up-skilling events led by the Fellow are helping cultivate broader human capacity to produce quality research in the field of EER (e.g., Chairing the Research in Engineering Education Network to help raise the quality, credibility, and usefulness of EER globally and delivering Master Classes to help engineering teachers and researchers upskill).

This MSCA allowed the Fellow to develop agility with many different research methodologies and promote best practices to the larger EER community (e.g., co-authoring a study on “grit” in engineering education and identifying how to report it for maximum impact). The Fellow’s project on UK civil engineers exposed shortfalls in ethics and sustainability education and identified how engineers learn about these crucial topics, in that research participants said they did not learn enough about them in university. The Fellow’s PhD student is generating important new knowledge about processes and organizational systems that support creativity in engineering production; working together they are generating new models that describe shortfalls in engineering for UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and illustrate what can be done to address them. Through the Fellow’s research on architecture and civil engineering students, valuable new understandings are emerging related to how students conceptualize both design creation and knowledge generation.

Impacts anticipated from the MSCA are increased and improved: focus by engineering educators on developmental patterns shared among engineering students; student retention as a result of improved support; diversity as techniques to support minority students are increasingly employed; overall teaching in engineering education as a result increasingly credible and useful research; focus on ethics and sustainability in engineering education; and production of tools and models to help engineering educators foster creativity and engineering firms contribute to realizing the UN’s SDGs. A final overarching impact is enhanced public perception of engineering as a fun and creative field.

The commission also requested:

4 – Address (URL) of the project’s public website

5- Images attached to the Summary for publication

Fellowship Finale: 24 months flew past!

img_2984My 24-month research fellowship at UCL has come to a close. December opened with farewell activities, end-of-year gatherings and conferences, holiday parties and goodbye events.

When work finished for the year, Aongus and I enjoyed the sights and sounds of London for Christmas. And, around New Year’s Day, we took to packing for our move back to Dublin.

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I’ve included photos of a farewell breakfast (with my PhD student, Thomas Empson and co-supervisor Sushma Patel) with breath-taking views over London, special visitors, a December conference in Coventry for the UK-Ireland Engineering Education Network, the “leaving-do” hosted on my behalf by UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education, and some general holiday fun.

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In wrapping up, I also delivered a lunchtime seminar at UCL about the research I’ve conducted and/or published over the past two years. You can view the Prezi I delivered here.

It’s been a whirlwind, but I have now moved back to Dublin and resumed my job teaching at TU Dublin (known as DIT when I left for the Fellowship). I’ve got plenty of fun new challenges on the horizon to keep me busy and always learning.

And, thankfully, Aongus has gotten a transfer from his company and will follow me over to Dublin soon!

PhD Breakfast from the Darwin Brasserie atop the “Walkie Talkie”

Colleagues visiting from South Africa

UK-Ireland Engineering Education Research Network conference

Leaving Do — Gifts, Drinks and Bowling

Leaving Do — Karaoke

Christmastime in London

Engineering Faculty Christmas Party

My Farewell Seminar

Evaluating Grant Proposals for the European Commission

This past Sunday night, I hopped on the Eurostar from London St. Pancreas–and in just over two hours I disembarked at Midi station in Brussels. I love that Chunnel!

I’ve spent the week working alongside other experts from around Europe to evaluate projects proposed for funding. This is an activity I am doing to develop more skills with regard to grant writing and program design.

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Aongus took the underground over to St. Pancreas Sunday night, to see me off as I boarded the Eurostar.

This is a job that requires a great deal of concentration. We’ve each been working for weeks–studying 30-page proposals, 7-8 of them per expert,  and then creating very detailed individual reports, comparing and compiling these into group reports, and then meeting face-to-face on-site in Brussels to discuss each proposal in depth. The scores we assign will be used to determine which organizations will receive funds to support doctoral and post-doctoral researchers.

 

Through this process, the European Commission and its Research Executive Agency (REA) provide detailed, specific feedback to applicants as well as numeric scores.

Many applicants succeed and receive financial support, but I’ll admit that with the sums provided, competition is fierce.

I believe this funding is well spent. It builds the capacity of researchers to do great work and learn important new skills. It yields results that make life and systems better at the individual, organizational, national, regional, and international levels. It produces valuable research results in a vast array of fields and disciplines.

The evaluation process is extremely important. It has to be done with extreme care. It is a huge amount of work, and the experts involved take the job very seriously.

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The evaluation itself is confidential, but pictures of Brussels I can share. 🙂

Many dozen experts have been involved this week, as reviewers and quality control officers. Our purpose is to deliver accurate and reliable results.

 

As a scholar from the States, I particularly value the feedback given to applicants in this process. Great care is taken to keep the scoring open, transparent, and fair, and to yield consistency from year to year as well as between proposals.

It’s a tight-knit process with a demanding timetable. And we’ve done remarkably well at staying focused and on track.

Why do I see the results of this process as valuable? In the U.S., fellowship and grant applicants rarely get feedback. I suspect it’s a result of the litigious nature of “American” society that funding agencies don’t want to open themselves up to questioning, and they won’t let applicants know what was seen as weak about the proposal. They will provide only very general feedback if any at all. I’ve had this experience with at least three different funding agencies in the USA. It was exceedingly frustrating and turned me off from wanting to keep bashing my head against a rock (even though I had a relatively high level of success winning grants for educational/learning sciences!).

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The plaza next to the building where evaluations are conducted.

Working here at REA, our primary focus is on achieving accurate scores that can hold water. There’s much less paranoia on the part of the funders, in my opinion. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be the same fear of redress–in the case of any mistake, the program managers actually do want to address it in a way that is fair to the applicant. Transparency and proper channels for redress/appeal are foundational principles of the programs that REA funds.

 

Because REA’s process provides reliable feedback, I myself was able to improve one past proposal that wasn’t successful on its first submission. I was able to learn and to re-submit. By addressing the points raised in the first evaluation, I was able to secure funding the second time around!

In the United States, I’d have been left in the dark, making the same mistakes over and over again. In my experience (having submitted 3 unsuccessful proposals, 2 successful proposals, and one pending proposal to various  MSCA programs evaluated via REA), the European evaluation system is FAR better than the US system. A knowledgable colleague told me yesterday that the overhead costs for evaluating and managing/overseeing the quality of these MSCA programs is lower than typical of other similar programs worldwide.

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Dinner at Lyon!

I can’t say this work is pleasurable, but I do enjoy being here, working hard, and feeling satisfaction by week’s end. It’s sometimes bittersweet, though, as it is Thanskgiving and, also, yesterday would have been Dad’s 74th birthday. He died five weeks ago, right after my assignments for this job arrived. Therefore, I didn’t get to talk with him yesterday. And, since this particular review always falls on Thanksgiving week, I’m spending my fourth Thanksgiving Day in Brussels, missing turkey in the States with family yet again.

 

In the evenings of this evaluation week, however, I do enjoy dinner out with other experts and my walks through the city to the Grand Place and the Royal Arcade. Hopefully tonight, the Christmas Market will be up and running! It’s 6:40PM so I need to get going and pack up my things for the night.

On Monday night I went out and I got to enjoy Moules et Frites at Lyon.

If you are capable and interested in serving as an expert evaluator, you can set up a personal profile in the Participant Portal (see instructions at https://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/docs/h2020-funding-guide/experts/experts_en.htm). When REA needs your expertise, they may well send you an invitation to serve.

 

Focus on Student Development

Our new special focus journal is out!

This is a major part of my Marie Curie fellowship, because I wanted (a) to learn more about publishing and (b) build the knowledge base regarding “student development” in engineering.

I’m particularly interested in identity development and epistemic cognition (how students think about knowing and what knowledge is). I am myself working on a major research project exploring these epistemic topics, but with this journal issue I helped provide other people who are working on similar topics a place to publish their work.

It’s a really nice set of papers–three on identity and five on epistemology, with an introductory statement up front which I wrote with the people I brought on board as guest editors. The editorial team spent the past 18 months on this project–getting authors invited, articles competatively selected then carefully reviewed and enhanced.

You may remember that we issued a call for papers about 18 months ago. We managed to keep the whole project on track schedule-wise and the final printed version came out in August 2019, a full four months before I’d promised the funders I’d deliver it!!!!! How often will I get to say something like that!? Delighted to have the chance now.

Here’s the introductory statement:

Practical Epistemic Cognition in a Design Project—Engineering Students Developing Epistemic Fluency

Jonte Bernhard Anna-Karin Carstensen Jacob Davidsen Thomas Ryberg

Teacher Learner, Learner Teacher: Parallels and Dissonance in an Interdisciplinary Design Education Minor

Desen S. Ozkan Lisa D. Mcnair Diana Bairaktarova

Here’s an official overview of the issue:

“This Special Issue of the IEEE Transactions on Education focuses on using enquiry-based design projects to spur engineering students’ development, so as to increase understanding and application of the relevant theories, foster higher rates of student development and achieve this in healthy and productive ways.

Each of the eight papers in this Special Issue focuses on a specific aspect, presenting an empirical research study on either epistemological or identity development among engineering students. Five of the papers are on epistemological development or ‘epistemic cognition,’ and three on identity development. The overall set of resources is presented so engineering educators can gain familiarity with existing theories on how students change and grow over their university years, and can consider the findings of empirical studies and what these might imply for their own teaching and for their students’ learning.”

https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/8786829

If you’ve got a manuscript you’d like to publish with this journal, you can find links on the website of the IEEE Education Societyhttp://ieee-edusociety.org/about/ieee-transactions-education. Or, feel free to drop me a line at <irelandbychance dot com> to ask advice–I’m an Associate Editor of this journal.

Publishing Discount for SEFI Members

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Good news shining through a rainy day in London.

I was on the bus from London South Bank University this morning, headed to University College London when good news arrived, shining through an otherwise cold and rainy day. The Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of Engineering Education  (EJEE), Dr. Kristina Edström, forwarded me an email from the publishing house, Taylor and Francis, regarding costs for purchasing “Gold” level open access in the journal.

 

The change will enable SEFI members to save $500 off the cost of Gold access and the publishers will implement a change tonight–when they reboot their system. Information about the discount will then be included on the T&F web page for EJEE (although the T&F code for the journal is actually CEEE). Info about how to secure the discount will also be provided by the EJEE editors (Kristina, along with her deputy editors, Dr. Maartje van den Bogaard and Prof. Jonte Bernhard) when they send the formal acceptance email to authors.

SEFI–the European Society for Engineering Education—is the organising body behind EJEE. There are individual memberships available, but it’s more typical for an institution to join. Because I am affiliated with UCL and TU Dublin, which are both SEFI members, I am also a member of SEFI. There’s a full list of member organisation on the SEFI website.

Here’s what the publishers’ rep said:

Hi Kristina,

I hope that you are very well today.

I’m just picking up on your email to Rachel regarding the discounted APC for SEFI members and promoting this a bit more widely. I have added this information to the Instructions for Authors page under the Open Access heading, and to the Society Information page as below:

  • IFAs:image001
  • Society Informationimage002

These changes to the journal pages will go live overnight once our servers update. Do let me know if any tweaks to the wording are required. If it doesn’t appear already, it might be something worth advertising also somewhere on the SEFI website—do let me know if you would like T&F’s help with this.

For your reference, the relevant clause in the contract regarding this APC discount for SEFI members is screenshotted below:

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Please do not hesitate to get back in touch if there’s anything else I can help with.

All best wishes,
Jess

I’m glad I was able to help push this along, so SEFI members can realise savings. I stuck with this effort, first as a curious author, and second as a member of EJEE’s Editorial Board. I’m feeling today like I added a bit of value to the SEFI community.

Kristina celebrated with a Tweet letting the world know:

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img_2419As for my own article (the one I blogged about yesterday) I haven’t decided if I’ll upgrade to Gold. I’ve discovered there’s a 12-month embargo for the current access level I have (Green), and after 12 months I can post the official version of the paper. Perhaps the 50 free copies I’m allowed to give out will suffice until then, since most colleagues will have access to the article via their university libraries.

The full cost to obtain Gold access for my paper would be about €2395, according to an estimate I received from the platform a couple weeks ago. The $500 discount equates to €446, so the total cost for open access would still be head-spinning, at about €1950.

Yes, it’s true. Many people don’t know that authors typically must pay to publish their writing in top-notch journals. Fortunately, with EJEE, there’s no cost to authors if they go the Green route. However, for Gold (fully and immediately open) access to the public, there is a charge.

EJEE is pretty special in regard to offering Green access for free. The other top journals in the field of engineering education research (EER) charge. For the Journal of Engineering Education (JEE), organised by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), it costs the author around $60 per page to publish (and there isn’t a free route other than requesting a special exception for extenuating circumstances). I hope I can figure out how to pay the fee when I get an article accepted there.

Today, I’m celebrating small victories.

New article published! Implementing PBL and comparing research methods.

My article, Comparing grounded theory and phenomenology as methods to understand lived experience of engineering educators implementing Problem-Based Learning, was just published by the European Journal of Engineering Education!

The abstract identifies the topic and its relevance to engineering education:

Getting lecturers/professors to implement pedagogical innovations is a central focus of university managers/administrators today. Convincing teachers to change is notoriously hard. This research project investigated the shift in pedagogical approach among a small group of faculty as they replaced traditional lecture-based methods with Problem-Based Learning projects. Interviews were conducted with eight of the most active drivers of this change, around the research question: What was it like to be part of a learning group focused on tangible change toward student-centered learning? Objectives of this study were: (1) to understand how pedagogical changed happened in an electrical engineering programme at a post-secondary institution in Ireland; (2) to analyse data using two different research methods to distill as much meaning as possible; (3) to describe the process, results, and findings achieved using each method; and (4) to compare and contrast the methods, asking: To what extents do the research methods of grounded theory and phenomenology fit our data and yield relevant and useful findings? Results of this mixed-methods approach show that fun, enjoyment, camaraderie, and a sense of ownership of the change at the ground level were essential to driving transformation. With regard to analysing this specific dataset, we found grounded theory to produce more helpful outcomes (including a graphic model of change). Because interviews had been conducted two years after the events under analysis, the interview comments were inherently reflective and, as it turns out, not as conducive to phenomenological methodologies which seek to understand raw, pre-reflective experience. This report should be of particular use to (a) teachers and administrators strategizing change and (b) engineering education researchers assessing the applicability of various methods.

I spearheaded the project but had assistance from Gavin Duffy in lining up interviews and conducting phenomenological analysis and enjoyed supervisory support from Brian Bowe.

You can access a pre-print here: Comparing grounded theory and phenomenology as methods to understand lived experience of engineering educators implementing Problem-Based Learning. I tried very hard to purchase an upgrade to “Gold” access so I could post the final published version online, and as a SEFI member, I am supposed to get a discount on this service from the publisher. Unfortunately, Taylor and Francis haven’t sorted out how to organize the discount yet, so I’m only able to post the text version I submitted to EJEE for peer review. The published version is available through most university libraries (using DOI: 0.1080/03043797.2019.1607826). However, if you’re interested in citing the published version but you lack access to it, please contact me. I am allowed to share the published version with a few dozen people, and T&F provided me a link for doing that.

This was a complex study and took quite a few years to bring to publication. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who supported this project–most especially my coauthors and the folks I interviewed at TU Dublin. I’d also like to thank the funders. First, data collection and transcription (conducted in 2012 and 2013) were supported by a grant provided by the Fulbright Commission in Ireland along with Dublin Institute of Technology. Second, data analyses were supported by a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) fellowship from the European Union (in 2014-2016) via Call identifier: FP7-PEOPLE-2013-IIF, Project 629388, Project acronym: REESP, Project title: Re-Engineering Europe’s STEM Pipeline. Finally, work to get this published with its unique slant of using two different methods and comparing the outcomes (conducted in 2018 and 2019) was supported via a second MSCA fellowship, Call identifier: H2020-MSCA-IF-2016, Project 747069, Project acronym: DesignEng, Project title: Designing Engineers: Harnessing the Power of Design Projects to Spur Cognitive and Epistemological Development of STEM Students.

This information can help if you want to cite the article:

Shannon Chance, Gavin Duffy & Brian Bowe (2019): Comparing grounded theory and phenomenology as methods to understand lived experience of engineering educators implementing problem-based learning, European Journal of Engineering Education, DOI: 0.1080/03043797.2019.1607826

Vivacious Vienna: Hundertwasser

I was an exchange student to Switzerland in 1994, and my first host “mom,” Esther Sterchi-Wyss, loved the architect Hundertwasser. I arrived at her home never having heard of the designer despite having more than six years of university-level architecture education.

Hundertwasser, you see, is self-made. A craftsman-turned-architect. His work wasn’t taught in modernist schools of architecture at the time, but he had certainly hit a chord with Esther, who had postcards and posters of his vibrant buildings posted in her Ferenberg kitchen.

It’s a bit odd not to have heard of him, as his work is in the same realm as Barcelona’s Gaudi, whose work I’d made pilgrimages to visit. Nevertheless, I had not.

While I was in Vienna this past February for the 2019 MCAA-General Assembly, I had the chance to visit three Hunderwasser creations.

It was just a brief encounter, but I enjoyed the joy and playfulness I found. And I finally understood Esther’s fascination. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing some of the images I collected during my brief visit.

Sites where you can see Hundertwasser’s work

Apartment block in Vienna

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Hunderwasser Village 

Kunsthaus Wein

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Vivacious Vienna: Exploring the City

During my February trip to Vienna for the MCAA General Assembly, I had the chance to look around the city center as well as some sectors not far from the center.

Vienna is an architect’s dreamland, full of beautiful spaces and artifacts old and new. In fact, the architect/urbanist/painter/historian Camillo Sitte documented many of the world’s most successful plazas in his quest to define what makes a public space beautiful. Many of his favorites plazas are located in Vienna. I often referenced his book “The Art of Building Cities”, published in 1945, when I was an architecture student and later an architecture professor.

Although I actually only had six hours to explore Vienna after the Assembly concluded, I took in plenty of sites. Below, I’ve posted my slide shows of spectacular architecture.

The slide shows start in Alservorstadt, with the Votive Church (Votivkirche), Hotel Regina, and University of Vienna. The slides proceed downtown and show visits to two more churches (Stephansdom and Der Graben), concluding with the Globe Museum. In other posts, I share photos from Hundertwasser and Otto Wagner ‘s Austria Post Headquarters or “Osterr Postparkasse” (blog forthcoming).

Votive Church (Votivkirche) 

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Hotel Regina

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The University of Vienna

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Vienna City Center

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Stephansdom

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Der Graben

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Globe Museum

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Marie Curie Alumni Association–2019 General Assembly

This year, for the first time, I attended the Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA) General Assembly. It was held at the University of Vienna at the end of February. I represented the newly founded Irish chapter. I’m also a member of the UK chapter, having served as a Marie Curie Research Fellow in both the UK and Ireland.

This was a great opportunity to learn about research other people are doing around the continent and meet researchers from all over the world. I have a new understanding of the slogan “Researchers on the Move” and I see how truly dynamic are the researchers who travel from country to country to help answer questions and solve problems. We learned support for researchers and we got to discuss the challenges and joys of being traveling researchers.

Today, I’m working with a prospective MSCA fellow to craft his application, and I’m using what I learned at the General Assembly. I’m encouraging him to attend if he’s selected as a grant recipient because its a great way to connect with resources and the research of others.

I’ve attached some photos of 2019 events and some of the Tweets I posted during the General Assembly.