Recently, I had the good fortune to gather with the European University of Technology (EUt+) as part of its EthiCo project. There are eight, soon to be nine, technological universities in this alliance.
The first day, I met with leaders of an EthiCo work package who are developing materials to teach teachers to integrate ethics into their course delivery. The leaders of this project were receptive to my ideas, and asked me to present ideas and a framework—which I synthesized from the Engineering Ethics Education Handbook I am currently co-editing—during the subsequent day’s work sessions.
On the third day, I facilitated a session on integrating ethics into participants’ own teaching, using case studies, challenge- or problem-bases learning, or Values Sensitive Design and Virtues Practice Design. The photos below show the groups hard at work.
On the fourth day, I facilitated a session on defining learning for teacher-training modules on using each type of activity listed above (case studies, CBL or PBL, and VSD or VPD).
Being part of the EEE Handbook empowered me to step forward and lead these sessions extemporaneously. I got to draw from the contributions of 115 experts on our handbook team.
The EthiCo group of the EUt+ was enthusiastic about learning the techniques promoted in the handbook, and they look forward to reading and using the Handbook once it’s published.
Cultural exchange was a big part of the EUt+ week as well, and you see photos of this side of things below.
I immensely enjoyed meeting and working with colleagues at TU Dublin’s peer institution who are part of EUt+ and also building string relationships with TU Dublin colleagues who attended.
I added days before and after the conference for exploring Cluj, Romania. It’s a fascinating place to visit!
My colleague and co-Deputy Editor of the European Journal of Engineering Education, Professor Jonte Bernhard, came to visit for the weekend. Jonte was on his way to a PhD viva in Limerick where he is serving today as External Examiner.
Here’s a favorite picture from the summer, taken with Jonte, at a dinner in Stockholm that was hosted by our chief editor, Kristina Edström.
This past weekend, Aongus cooked up a lovely dinner for Jonte and me on Saturday. We were joined by a PhD student named Urša — she had attended the Doctoral Symposium that Jonte and I organized at the SEFI conference in September.
On Sunday, Jonte, Aongus, and I enjoyed brunch at Oscar’s on Smithfield Plaza. Aongus and I had hoped to show Jonte several of Dublin’s sites, but the rain put us off. We did make it over, between downpours and hail, to tour the Jameson Distillery on Bow Street.
Aongus had never been on the Jameson’s tour, and I hadn’t since 2003, so it was a rare treat despite it being just a block from our flat.
For me, the work week started with attending an online conference. Then, I did a bit of peer reviewing before heading off to teach Tech Graphics 2-6 PM.
My co-teacher, Marina, and Rachel (who teaches physics lab down the hall at the same time as us) both came over for dinner to celebrate the semester coming to a close.
As both Marina and Rachel are working on PhDs (in BIM and spatial perception, respectively), we’ll be sure to get them reviewing papers for our journals soon!
Thanksgiving here in Ireland is usually just another ordinary Thursday. But this year I made a point to celebrate. I registered for a conference held at the Royal Irish Academy on Dawson Street, so I could learn about “Next Generation Construction in Ireland” while soaking in old-school Irish ambiance, and I bought tickets for an American Thanksgiving feast.
I love visiting the stately old RIA building, with its floors of well worn books. There was an interesting exhibition on display, and lovely architectural details to treat the eyes and soothe the soul.
Despite heavy rain falling before my cycle over, I was inspired to wear my favorite Irish sweater and the “BIM Hero” lapel pin I received earlier in the year. (I am hoping the pin will provide the good karma I need to get my current manuscript on the Hero’s Journey polished up to final form to submit this coming week!)
During this one-day conference, I learned more than a few new things about Modern Methods of Construction, Irish strategies and policies, and education programs and plans to up-skill the Irish workforce.
Dr. Tara Brooks from Queens University in Belfast presented fascinating research and I’ve included images since I really enjoyed the graphic devices she used to situate her contributions to the body of knowledge in BIM and digital construction.
My own university, TU Dublin, was very well represented among attendees, presenters, panelists, organizers, and session chairs. I’ve pictured Joseph Mady, a part time lecturer who delivered an interesting talk.
Our conference ended promptly at 5, as Ireland’s Prime Minister was scheduled to speak in the same room at 7, and there was setting up to do.
With the conference concluded, I headed across Dawson Street to Cafe en Seine for a cocktail with Aongus.
Then we cycled together over to the Hilton near Lock C6 on the south side canal. We met up with a merry group of Americans (most with Irish in tow) to share a feast of turkey will most all the trimmings.
It was Aongus’ first sweet potato casserole with marshmallows and he’s still raving about his new find. It’s fun to see the delight he takes in root veg… he also loved the glazed carrots. Such a healthy boy! My favorite were the green beans sautéed with bacon.
We made some new friends and had a ball sharing stories in a familiar twang. Until next year:
It’s a very strange and dreary day here in Dublin. We almost never get thunder and lightning, and that novel occurrence is providing the main bit of excitement for the day. (The thunderclaps are rolling longer than I’ve heard in my life — more like a standing ovation than mere claps.) Suffering from lack of focus, I have picked items from the non-urgent portion of my extensive “To Do” list, which will mean the urgent ones get more urgent. At least when I procrastinate, I’m still actually working!?
So this morning, in addition to meeting online with my PhD student, I spent some time studying the composition of the Editorial Board of the European Journal of Engineering Education (EJEE) and creating a spreadsheet to help me understand our peer reviewers’ expertise better, as I’ve recently become Deputy Editor of this journal.
The second one has a title that tends to scare people!
That scary name and the fact that it’s been behind a paywall on the publisher’s website mean that the tally of downloads isn’t as high, but you can find it free (as the embargo period passed) using this link from the TU Dublin ARROW repository, where it has had 870 downloads to complement the 1458 views at the publisher’s site. I really hope people will find and use this paper on “Comparing grounded theory and phenomenology,” especially if they are uncertain about which methodology to use for their research. Grounded theory and phenomenology have some similar characteristics, but the results we report in this paper illustrate that you can use them to find different things. Grounded theory is helpful when studying organizational and policy issues, as the article shows. Phenomenology looks deeply at the core essence of the experience. Using the two different methods in parallel analyses, we were able to learn about teachers’ (phenomenological) experience implementing Problem-Based Leaning, and also the (grounded theory) way they organized themselves to achieve results.
Meanwhile, the third on the list, “The study of grit in engineering education research: a systematic literature review” is EJEE’s fourteenth all-time most downloaded. This paper offers really important advice for anyone wanting to use Angela Duckworth’s theory of “grit” (passion and perseverance) to study student development. We found many researchers to be leaving out crucial information when reporting their “grit” results, and we provide advice on how to report findings in a reliable way.
As you can see in the screenshots above, I also authored the all-time most-downloaded article of the Australasian Journal of Engineering Education, “Above and beyond: ethics and responsibility in civil engineering” with 4,838 views as of today. I put my whole heart and soul into this paper and I am overjoyed to see it succeed. I hope readers will find the content useful.
Anyway, these discoveries prompted me to check my Google Scholar profile with happy results — I have climbed to h-index 10, which means ten of my articles have been cited at least ten times. The next milestone is h-index 11, which requires 11 articles to each have 11 or more citations. Those take a long time to accrue, but hopefully, people who download the articles will cite them in their own upcoming publications.
Now, for a little 2:26 PM lunch and a deep dive into some curriculum design for the afternoon! Thanks for stopping to read this. I truly appreciate your support.
Today, my colleagues and I presented at the International Society of Educational Planners 2022 (virtual) conference. We brought findings from the realm of engineering education research to share with the educational planners attending.
Early on, Diana Martin and I presented “Promoting engineering ethics education and assessment practices for wider implementation in educational planning.” I presented the first half but I had a chance to make some screen captures once Diana took over. You can see them here:
The most exciting part of the day, for me, has been the presentation Sandra Cruz-Moreno, my PhD student at TU Dublin. Sandra started her PhD studies in January 2022 and this (already!) is her fourth symposium/conference presentation. Sandra presented “Considerations influencing women’s decisions to study engineering in Ireland.”
I’m Sandra’s Lead Supervisor, and we had good confidence going into the day since yesterday Sandra presented all her progress to my Advisory Supervisor, Professor Brian Bowe. It was great to gain Brian’s insight and hear his resounding endorsement for the work Sandra has completed to date! We have a solid plan, agreed by all, for moving forward.
Sandra delivered the entire ISEP presentation herself and the audience’s reaction was warm and supportive.
The scholar who presented between our two teams, Gary Snyder, raised many interesting points. If you’re interested in the innovation adoption curve, you might enjoy the slide below:
Many of the participants at this ISEP conference, including Gary, are from Virginia Tech. Seeing them makes me realize that I’m missing the amazing autumn colors of Virginia again this year. It’s been too long since I’ve had the chance to feel that crisp Virginia fall weather and red, red maple leaves.
I’ll close on another high note, by showing Diana’s keynote presentation from Wednesday, when she was awarded THE 2022 Outstanding Dissertation Award from ISEP. Amazing work, Diana!
I am so lucky to know these two, and honored to work with them both.
This week, I’m attending a virtual conference of the International Society for Educational Planning (ISEP). My colleague, Diana Adela Martin, is speaking later today. She’s presenting her PhD thesis, since she’s being awarded the 2022 ISEP Outstanding Dissertation Award. (Someone I know nominated her, wink, wink!)
ISEP publishes Educational Planning and its most recent issue features an article by Diana and me, along with our TU Dublin colleague Catherine Deegan. You can download the current issue at this link and find our article starting on page 23. Here’s the APA citation:
Yesterday, I cycled to the post office to pick up a package containing print copies of the journal. ISEP moves fast! The issue was published at the end of last week, and the print copies arrived (all the way from Blacksburg, Virginia) just days later.
Diana and I will be presenting aspects of the published work at the ISEP conference on Friday, and my PhD student, Sandra Cruz-Moreno will be presenting aspects of her doctoral research in the in the same session.
In other good news, classes this semester are rolling along smoothly, and University College London recently extended my term as Visiting Professor for an additional five years.
This site began as a way to share cultural experiences while I was a Fulbright Fellow in Ireland 2012-2013. I ended up falling for Ireland and I returned as a Marie Curie research fellow in 2014, and when that ended I got a full-time lecturing post at TU Dublin, although I was allowed a two-year career break to complete a second Marie Curie research fellowship, this time to University College London, in 2018 and 2019. I returned to Ireland and just recently earned Irish citizenship and an Irish passport.
Ethics teaching and research are core to my work — teaching, researching, designing curricula, and editing. Here’s a two-day snippet of activities….
Yesterday, I attended a work session for the EthiCo project, led by TU Dublin but working in collaboration with many other technological universities. We’re considering multi-dimensional understandings of ethics. And, our group is developing tools for teaching students about ethics and teachers about how to incorporate ethics (social and environmental justice) into their classrooms. TU Dublin’s Professor Noel Fitzpatrick is leading the effort.
Just before we met, my WhatsApp thread was alive as my colleagues and I determined the theme of our upcoming Dublin Maker (July 23) booth: Reboot Arcade. Short description: Games of all sorts and art installations relating to rebooting civilization in our own unique way.
We’ll inspire those who visit our booth to envision the world we’d create if we were doing things from scratch. I’ll contribute an activity for our booth at Dublin Maker about circular economy and regenerative design.
Throughout the day, I also wrote and uploaded feedback to my BIM students in the Research Methods module.
And, did quite a bit of editing on a manuscript with Inês Direito and Bill Williams using the Hero’s Journey framework. Here’s snapshot of my screen with a graphic I’ve made for that paper:
Today started with a conference of the members of the European University of Technology (EUt+). I presented ideas as part of the morning’s panel on the role of Education in the EUt+. I talked about the importance of ethics in technical education. It’s strange but exciting to be in a room with over 100 educators discussing topics passionately in person once again!
After the panel, I chatted with colleagues over coffee, and later followed up with many via email about how they can connect to SEFI and SEFI’s Ethics working group, and also the upcoming Project Approaches in Engineering Education (PAEE) conference where I’ll be delivering a keynote.
I really enjoyed hearing the speakers launch the conference (the secretary of the initiative, TU Dublin’s president, and the TU Dublin point person for the EUt+). Hearing them, I got a better idea of what’s in store for us as we join together as one big university offering more transferability of our students and of ideas and among our teachers. We’re building the future and creating our new reality.
But I couldn’t stay long. I hurried home to meet online with the editorial team for a new Handbook on Engineering Ethics Education. I zipped off emails to invite lead authors for Theme 4, on ethics accreditation.
I’ve got to get back to work now, but I’ll paste the handbook outline below, so you can see what kinds of things we’re exploring.
Outline for the Handbook on EEE
Theme 1: Foundations of engineering ethics education
Chapter 1.1: The purpose(s) of engineering ethics education
Chapter 1.2: How engineering ethics education makes use of normative ethical theories
Chapter 1.3: The individual and the collective in engineering ethics education
Chapter 1.4: Codes and professional organizations in engineering ethics education
Chapter 1.5: Reason and emotion play in engineering ethics education
Theme 2: Interdisciplinary contributions to engineering ethics education
Chapter 2.1: Philosophical and religious foundations in global perspective
Chapter 2.2: Sociological, Postcolonial and Critical Theory foundations
Reflecting professionally on my past four years, REEN is a definite bright spot.
I’m delighted with what we have accomplished since 2018 when I joined the Governing Body of the Research in Engineering Education Network (REEN), and since I took on the role of Chair for 2020 and 2021. I got to put many of the theories to work that I learned in my PhD in Higher Education Administration (Policy, Planning and Leadership).
We aim to host REES in geographically diverse regions, and we see this Symposium as a way of introducing new areas and communities to EER. I helped recruit and select the hosts and locations for REES 2021 in Perth Australia, and REES 2023 in Hubli, India. REES has been/will be held in:
I’m delighted to notice that REES has now been held on every (inhabited) continent!
We recognize that attending REES in person involves global travel and is thus prohibitively expensive for many — as well as taxing on the environment — and we seek to make it more accessible, inclusive, and environmentally sustainable. So, the organizing team has developed multiple avenues for online participation.
We built on this success with virtual events in the design of the upcoming REES in Perth, which has a global “relay” type structure. Events will happen face-to-face in Perth but will include paper presentations in a hybrid format (with face to face + online participation). Each research paper will be discussed three times:
first in the afternoon in Perth (hybrid)
second online at a time comfortable for the Middle East westward across Europe and Africa and across the Americas, and
third at a report back to the Perth group the next morning.
We have a host of facilitators enlisted to carry the dialogue across the time zones during REES 2021, to support continuity. We will use collaborative tools (e.g., Padlet, Miro, Jamboards, or similar) to record and add ideas at each stage of the global relay. I’ll be facilitating two of these relay sessions, scheduling and helping the facilitation leaders prepare, and moderating the online keynote sessions. Our keynote speakers have agreed to deliver their talks twice: once to people in time zones near Perth (hybrid format), and again to the other side of the world (online only).
REEN will provide awards for the REES Best Paper and best student paper (the Duncan Frazier Award), and a sub-committee of REEN Board members is now in the process of selecting winners for 2021.
During my term as Chair, the REEN Board has developed a practice of building capacity among board members and empowering each other so that there is continuity in transition and handover over responsibilities among Board members.
In the past two years, we have expanded our Board to provide a better representation of non-Anglo regions; the prior naming and allocation of representatives previously privileged the USA and Australia, but it now provides two representatives per continent with some sub-divisions specified to ensure geographical diversity (here’s an example call for applicants). We’ll modify further soon, to make the Middle East and Russia two separate regions.
We have innovated and grown. In the past two years, we have developed many new policies and procedures (such as for recruiting candidates and conducting elections) and programs (e.g., virtual Meet Ups, hybrid conference formats, capacity-building groups, and a capacity-building workshop series that we’ll soon pilot test).
We established a new transition period, to bring the incoming Chair on board 6-12 months prior to taking the full role of Chair, and the outgoing Chair to transition out gradually over 6-12 months to provide advice and support to the incoming Chair.
We also established a new rotation cycle for elections that helps stabilize membership so that we have a consistent level of turnover each year. Our new practices for recruiting and selecting Board members provide a common and transparent approach across regions that will help REEN fill its needs for diverse skills, interests, and expereince. We developed a more balanced approach that allows seasoned and emerging researchers alike a chance to serve.
As we are a larger group, we have not had trouble recruiting people to take on new roles or expand our repertoire of offerings. These were problems encountered in the past, when sitting Chairs couldn’t find replacements, for example. In the past three years, we have had extensive competition for the Board positions we have advertised, typically with 6-10 people running for each open position.
To help ensure engagement among Board members and address a few cases of under-performance, I implemented an annual benchmarking activity wherein Board members submit a written reflection at the start of each year, summarizing what they contributed the prior year, and setting forth goals and aspirations they have for the coming year. This approach has been successful in helping build a sense of ownership and accountability. It helps us identify and build momentum around shared goals. Thankfully, it also gave individuals who were not contributing very much a chance to see that for themselves and modify their behaviour by either stepping up their efforts, better stating what they intended to contribute so they could deliver, or stepping down to allow others a chance to serve and lead.
As REEN itself does not have a bank account, we have successfully controlled costs. We moved our website to a less expensive/nearly free provider, and we upgraded the content. During my time on REEN, we have added a page on EER journals, and our team continues to cultivate and refine this list, trying to provide trustworthy and consistent information to authors to aid their selection of publication venues and help them avoid predatory publishers. We still have the annual cost of the website domain, and I’ll try to find a sponsor for that as I don’t like that obligation passing from Chair to Chair as we’ve been doing.
Over the past 24 months, we produced a special focus journal issue on ethics in engineering, published in hard copy in May 2021 via the Australasian Journal of Engineering Education. I was the Editor, supported by the Editor-in-Chief Sally Male, and Associate Editors from REEN Teresa Hattigh, Andrea Mazzurco, and Valquíria Villas-Boas.
A full list of past REEN publications is available on our website and this list is being expanded this very week to include updated content and a new page of domain-specific journals as well.
The special focus issue of the Australasian Journal of Engineering Education (that I mentioned above) adds to the global body of literature on engineering ethics education. The introduction by the guest editor Shannon Chance presents the nine manuscripts and explains ties across them. Overall, the set covers ethical decision-making models and pedagogical techniques, philosophical aspects of ethics in engineering practice and education, ethics in accreditation, and the role of extra-curricular activities and gaming platforms in students’ ethical development. The set has been released digitally and will soon be published in hard copy as well. Many of the articles are open access, and a link to each is provided below.
In the special issue, authors Gwynne-Evans, Junaid and Chetty argue for a repositioning of ethics at the heart of engineering graduate attributes. Martin, Conlon and Bowe examine how “cases” (or detailed examples) are used in the teaching of engineering ethics; these authors argue for the development of immersive scenarios and active stakeholder engagement, as well for the development of local repositories and metrics of effectiveness. Stransky, Bodnar, Anastasio and Burkey explore the power of immersive environments that encourage authentic, high-level engagement by students. Sivaraman proposes a 4-tier rubric for evaluating engineering students’ ethical decision-making skills in the context of hypothetical scenarios. Lawlor offers a dissenting perspective to the teaching of engineering ethics through case studies and he recommends mirroring practices used in the education of philosophers—reading, lectures, discussion, and assessment—so that students are equipped to think critically about the profession. Hess, Miller, Higbee, Fore and Wallace explore empathy and ethical becoming, with the aim of helping Biomedical students recognize issues in practice environments. Frigo, Marthaler, Albers, Ott and Hillerbrand bring to the forefront the role of phronesis and virtues in engineering education. Advocating an authentic approach to teaching ethics, Polmear, Chau and Simmons highlight the role that informal, out-of-class, or extra-curricular activities play in the students’ ethical development. Finally, Chance, Lawlor, Direito and Mitchell assess the ramifications of traditional approaches to teaching ethics by asking civil engineers how they had learned about ethics and find that lessons of codes and professional practice were likely present in their engineering courses but completely unmemorable.
As REEN wants to help more regions build skills in EER and a sense of community working together, our Board members launched, in late 2019, a group we are now calling the “Engineering Education Research Network – Africa”. This group shares resources and ideas via WhatsApp and meet online to share similarly. Our Board has been working diligently to develop a series of workshops to introduce this community to EER and examples of how to do EER. We will run this workshop series in January-February 2022. I’ll meet with the group (online) later in November to launch that workshop initiative and encourage people to sign up.
Board members are hoping to extend these support activities into additional regions, eventually providing video recordings translated into local languages to help people learn EER. Our long-range plan for these EERN communities includes Latin America, the Middle East, and China.
In the role of Chair, I also developed a new logo with input from all Board members:
Our little Board is small but mighty. My wholehearted thanks go to the current Board members who made possible all the accomplishments I outlined above:
I collected interviews for this project with civil engineers recruited by Engineers Without Borders UK (EWB-UK). Dr Inês Direito helped with interviews and data analysis and Professor John Mitchell helped us with editing.