We’re seeking two new board members for REEN, the global Research in Engineering Education Network, representing the regions of (1) the Middle East and Russia and (2) Southeast Asia. I’m proud to serve as the Chair of this Network, 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.
Please join the global EER community–folks all around the world doing Engineering Education Research–in our first Engineering Education Research Big Meet Up. We’re meeting online throughout the day, May 14th.
The event is being spearheaded by Professor John Mitchell, Vice Dean Education and Co-Director of the Centre for Engineering Education at University College London (UCL).
Co-sponsors include the global Research in Engineering Education Network (or “REEN”, which I chair) and other organizations near and dear to my heart where I have worked or studied–including TU Dublin’s CREATE research group, Virginia Tech, and UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education (CEE). Other sponsors are 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).
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.
1 – Summary 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!).
2 – Work 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.
3 – Progress 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.
Most days, I find myself communicating with colleagues from afar on various projects, proposals, and ideas. On a typical day, I hear from Dr. Inês Direito in London (UK), Dr. Lelanie Smith in Pretoria (South Africa) and Dr. Carlos Efrén Mora Luis in Tenerife (Spain). We have many overlapping interests–one being how to understand student motivations and emotions and how to use this understanding to help students tackle and persist through challenges. I often hear from our co-author Dr. Bill Williams, from outside Lisbon (Portugal) as well.
In addition to engineering motivations, we are also all interested in sustainability — environmental, economic and social. So over the past few weeks, WhatsApp and Signal chats have been rich and frequent.
Today alone, Lelanie, Inês, and I discussed research plans. Inês, Bill, and I submitted a conference paper on Brexit (with Inês in the lead and comments from Bill and me). Inês and I refined a journal manuscript on engineering ethics (with me in the lead and verbal input from Inês — she will edit my current version in the morning).
Down in the Spanish Canaries, Carlos has been fighting sand storms, as dust from the Sahara Dessert enveloped the islands. The weekend’s sandstorms were one of a number of challenges he’s faced recently, but he’s never one to give up.
Carlos and I didn’t win the grant we applied for this past September, despite having put months into the proposal. We’ve picked ourselves up, brushed off the disappointment, and developed a plan to perfect and resubmit. I know all too well that resubmitting makes a world of difference! It’s the best way to win funding. Yesterday, I was rallying our troops, gathering support for a new round of work. I am confident that eventually we will succeed.
But we haven’t been sitting around waiting for success to come.
In December, Carlos submitted an additional grant proposal, this one to the Cabildo of Tenerife, Spain, for €56,000. He received funding for the project titled “INGENIA.” Carlos explained to me that the word “Ingenia” comes from “Ingenio,” which is “Ingenuity” in English. So the project is fostering “Ingenuity” to support sustainability education.
I’m honored that (as a result of me coaching him on how to write grant proposals) he included me as a co-PI.
On the 31st of January, Carlos and his colleagues in Tenerife launched his extremely well-designed INGENIA project. It was a true thrill when over 300 people attended his launch that Friday!
Carlos has summarized in English that “INGENIA wants to show that students can find sustainable solutions to real life problems linked to SDGs in Tenerife.” Students will build their own research teams and find a supervisor who will help manage the financial resources for their project.” In other words, the students “will have to find relevant problems and then propose solutions. The final part of the process is selling their solutions to companies and administrative public offices.”
Students will engineer their solutions and compete for funding to realize their projects. Below, I’ve included information that Carlos wrote to described the project, which is being conducted in Spanish. I can understand a bit by reading the Spanish materials he produced, but he was kind enough to translate for me/us!
The Spanish public universities agreed recently contributing to the 2030 Agenda by building and transferring knowledge and skills to society about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Universities can contribute with teaching, learning, and student-participation methods to transfer not just the skills, but the motivation needed to face the SDGs. Like other Spanish higher education institutions, University of La Laguna (ULL) endorsed the United Nations (UN) SDGs initiative, and has a detailed understanding of the importance of its local problems linked to the environmental, social, and economical sustainability of the Canary Islands.
INGENIA is a project coordinated by ULL that is focused on the needs of the local society in the Canaries that supports building knowledge and skills on the participating students. INGENIA uses Project-oriented Problem Based Learning (PoPBL) learning strategies to motivate the students to find and propose solutions to real problems linked to the SDGs around their own environment.
Train university and high school academic staff in using active learning strategies to impulse SDGs.
Educate postgraduate students, and academic staff, in facilitating techniques and strategies to guiding students in complex projects linked to SDGs.
Develop real student projects with a high potential for positive impact in the Canarian society.
INGENIA will be implemented in three stages:
Informative and training actions. Informative actions will include a conference to be held at ULL in its theatre showing how students can change the world. Training actions will include workshops with specialists in Engineering Education focused on PBL and the evaluation of the impact of student projects. Goal: Get teachers motivated to help students in writing their proposals. Each of these teachers will also serve as guarantors for a team of students, and guarantors will assume the financial responsibility of the projects they back.
Training of facilitators. A group of postgraduate students will receive specific training for PBL, Motivation, Conflict Management, and Project Management. Facilitators will collaborate with guarantors in guiding the student teams. Goal: Having at least one facilitator for each wining proposal.
Project development: INGENIA will include a call for proposals. Student teams must justify the relevance of the problem and the feasibility of their solutions. Winning teams will receive funding for their projects, and must execute their projects within two months. At the end of this period, each team will write a report to identify the impact of their solutions. Students will participate in a public exhibition in October 2020, and will also have the opportunity to show their solutions to companies and public institutions with the aim of getting additional funding to continue their projects.
Carlos explained that the 31st was a day full of feeling. One of the speakers told such a moving story that the audience shed tears of emotion. Specifically, two students described their experiences; the second of these is working with ‘invisible’ people, meaning people who appear in social statistics, but have no work, no home, and thus no address. Carlos said she did an excellent job transmitting her feelings. She said, for instance, “that one day, she cooked rice for homeless people, but she was so busy that she forgot to turn off the cooking plate.” The rice was damaged, but she salvaged and packed up as much rice us she could, and went to give it to people in the street in Tenerife. She gave a portion to one man, and stayed looking at him. As the man was eating that rice, he stopped, looked at her eyes, and said what a lovely smile she had.
When she finished her narrative at the launch, one retired professor raised his hand to say something, but when he tried to start broken into tears. He cited numbers — the number of people invisible to all of us — and then he said that he had lived this experience along with her, and that she had touched his heart. The student walked down from the stage and gave the professor a big embrace. All the assistants, students, and teachers in the audience started to applaud.
It is this sort of change Carlos hopes to inspire among more students, and this is the sort of communication I received from Carlos daily.
After the student’s talk, many people were in tears, including Carlos. But he couldn’t stop to weep: he was next up on the stage.
Carlos needed to explain details of the program and how it will run. He had to explain the schedule and what will be expected of the various people working together in teams — including the student team members as well as the post-graduate and faculty member (e.g., professors) advising each team.
Carlos said the event was so motivating, inspiring them all to go out and find problems to solve. He received oodles of questions from students and academics wanting to participate. He said “Yes, I still can’t believe it, but something positive happened today!”
I have included images that are copyright of the photographer, Emeterio Suárez Guerra, and used with permission of Carlos.
I’m posting a cheerful reminder to those interested in engineering education research that important deadlines are coming up for manuscripts on ethics and SEFI conference papers. These are great activities to get involved with!
Research papers shall present original studies in the field of Engineering Education Research. Authors may follow the standards for good practices in EER. Please add the names of the authors in the relative fields and add the abstract in the text field. The text shall NOT contain the names of the authors neither references, in order to ensure a double-blind review process.Please do not upload any file at this stage of submission.When preparing your abstract, you are kindly asked to consider the review criteria on the conference website.You can upload a full paper after your abstract is accepted. Maximum length of abstract: 250 wordsDeadline: 2nd Mar 2020, 02:00:00am CET, Time left: 8 days 14 hoursChair contact: email@example.com
I cycled to the post office collection point over lunch today, using Dublin Bikes, to fetch a birthday gift. My rear tire hit a wet manhole cover and slid out from under me. My body hit the ground, belly first, flying toward an oncoming car. I stopped 18” short of its tires. The driver didn’t stop or apparently even consider it.
I am a bit bruised and had quite a scare but I’m okay and I’m home now. I might stay in my home office for the rest of the week as this experience was terrifying! I’m kidding of course, but I will stay put until my afternoon research appointment.
At least I discovered I can ask the Post to convey my packages to their local office, across the street from where I work. (The intercom in my flat doesn’t work and won’t be fixed. C’est la vie.)
So it appears I’ve used up another one of my nine lives, and just one day short of my 50th birthday, I’m down to fewer than six lives now. The precise count is unclear, but I definitely squandered one in 1979 when my crazy acrobatic attempt landed me in the hospital. Hopefully the remaining number, whatever it is, will see me safely through the coming 50 years.
Cheers—here’s to a happy but purple-kneed birthday!
It’s been a great start-of-semester and welcome-back here in Dublin. I’ve been settling back in at TU Dublin, since the first of the year. I’ve been learning to juggle a host of new job responsibilities along with my favorite existing projects. There’s so much work to be done!
In addition to teaching first-year engineering modules/courses, I have also been helping launch the new MSc in BIM, working on curriculum development (which buys out half my work time), finalizing research projects for publication, and drafting my final report for the 2018-12019 fellowship I had to UCL.
I’ve also attended a host of special events:
The launch of TU Dublin’s new strategic plan
A two-day conference on “Rethinking the Crit” in architecture and design education.
Tech support workshops for staff on Brightspace and Agresso
Personal wellbeing workshops for staff on insurance and personal finance.
A planning sessions with our ever-expanding RoboSlam team preparing for Dublin Maker 2020 (June 2020) and our upcoming Engineering Your Future week (May 2020)
TU Dublin’s new Strategic Plan
The unveiling of the strategic plan was quite well organized and inspiring. The speakers and panelists all did a great job explaining the shared aspirations of our academic community. I hope the details are as well done as the vision they presented.
Soon, I’ll read the plan and see how it matches up against the evaluation rubric I published back during my doc studies, which you can download here.
The take-home message of the strategic planning launch was that TU Dublin values diversity and inclusivity. The student voice was clear, strong and impressive. The leaders were well-spoken.
TU Dublin’s workshop on “Rethinking the Crit”
I attended a hands-on conference alongside architecture students from all over Ireland as well as teachers and critics from Ireland and abroad.
The workshop was organized by my College’s office for Learning Development, under the direction of Patrick Flynn, our Head of Learning Development. In many places, his role would be called Vice Dean for Academics, but DIT (the parent of TU Dublin) tended to do things its own unique way.
As I’m part of a team developing a brand new Architectural Engineering curriculum, this conference on how to improve the studio jury system was of great value to me. That Arch Eng course will graduate people ready for architecture licensing.
One of the presenters, Dr. Kathryn Anthony, literally wrote the book that got this conversation rolling: Design Juries on Trial. It was published in 1991 but there’s still a lot more uptake needed of her ideas across the globe. She collected data at Hampton University, where I used to teach, and at HU we used many of the techniques she proposed—with great success.
I hope to use techniques we discussed to help improve architecture education near and far.
My 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.
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.
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
Full-length papers are due March 1, 2020 to begin the review process–but you can feel free to contact me anytime to request help or advice (irelandbychance at gmail dot com). Papers for this journal are 5,000 to 7,000 words, including the abstract and references.
I’m one of the two Guest Editors for this project; the Associate Editors are all members of the REEN board. The editorial team includes people from Australia, Africa, and South America, as well as Europe and the USA! The journal’s Editor in Chief is the coordinator for REEN’s upcoming symposium (REES 2021) in Perth, Australia December 5-8, 2021.
And, I’ve just started on as Chair of REEN for the next two years. Delighted to have worked with such a productive group of people representing every continent over the past two years, and looking forward to two more great years! We’ve just welcomed two new members to the board–Cindy Finelli (from Michigan, USA) and Aida Olivia Pereira de Carvalho Guerra (from Aalborg, Denmark)–to round out our crew.
Grit was defined by Angela Duckworth and it involves two parts: persistence (consistency of effort) and passion (consistency of interest).
We analyzed the data, results, and findings reported in each article. We carefully and critically considered each author’s discoveries and interpretations.
We used a highly structured approach to studying groups of papers on a common theme; this method is called a “systematic review” of literature on a given subject. We wanted to answer one main question: What type of studies have been conducted on grit in engineering higher education, and what were the main outcomes?
This is a new area of study among engineering education researchers and only 2 journal articles had been published by the time we were collecting data (spring 2018). On the other hand, 29 conference papers were available in the engineering and education databases we used.
The theory we are studying was developed by Angela Duckworth and is described in this book.
By studying the content and findings of these 31 papers, we were able to identify trends and unresolved questions. We made recommendations about things that need more investigation–and also about the best way to report findings to help make the reports more valuable to engineering educators and researchers.
Collaborating with Inês and Manish on this project was a joy–it was a huge challenge and realizing this publication required loads of grit–but doing this work with these budding scholars was also fun and rewarding. We decided to do this project together because we wanted to learn the systematic review method, execute it well, and learn about the psychological construct of “grit” at the same time.
Inês Direito, Shannon Chance & Manish Malik(2019)The study of grit in engineering education research: a systematic literature review,European Journal of Engineering Education,DOI: 10.1080/03043797.2019.1688256