Recap on SRHE: Eye-opening research on highly productive researchers and the history of higher ed

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I presented on the first day of the 2018 SRHE Conference in Newport, Wales.

The Society for Research in Higher Education (SRHE) met last week for its 2018 conference. On Day 1, I delivered a summary report on national education policies in relation to what female engineering students told me about school experiences that led them to study engineering.

SRHE is a UK-based organization and its annual meeting is held each December in Wales at the Celtic Manor near Newport, a high-end golf resort where the organization has garnered good deals by assembling mid-week, off-season. The place was decorated beautifully for Christmas and I got a room on the tenth/top floor, with views of the nearby hills. Because I’m a genuine geek, I attended seminars straight through and missed out on the facility’s lovely pool, ice skating rink, and challenge course. Despite missing those thrills, I found the seminars delightful. In this blog, I can’t describe all the fascinating things I learned at the conference, but I’ll share some overarching thoughts and impressions.

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View from my tenth-floor room of Celtic Manor.

The opening and closing keynote speeches were very interesting, and they bookended the conference by taking opposite approaches to study international trends in higher education.

Prof. Marek Kwiek delivered the opening keynote. He described how his mixed-methods research study was conducted. He collected over 17k surveys and 500 interviews across 11 European countries, and he identified eye-popping results that did not sit well with some conference attendees. Essentially, top earners in higher education in Europe are more research-oriented, they publish much more than other academics but they also work quite hard, spending more time than others on *all* aspects of academic work–including teaching, research, service, and administration. This goes against commonly held beliefs, and prior research, that suggests researchers successfully avoid work other than research.

Prof. Kwiek said the top 10% of researchers produce 50% of all journal articles.

Prof. Kwiek found that the top 10% of researchers produce 50% of all journal articles. Top-producers work a full two months per year more than most university teachers. They also collaborate with many others internationally when they publish. But what visibly agitated the audience was the demographics Prof. Kwiek identified with regard to these top performers: they are predominantly male, middle-aged, full professors, with a mean age of 47. Being that I’m 48, I am already behind–but more than willing to catch up!

I’m a quick learner, and now I have the code for success. In this case, Prof. Kwiek highlighted an inherent problem: that the variables that mean the most to promotions/progression, salary, and prestige consistently favor men. This is not a problem of Prof. Kwiek’s making, but it is a situation his data clearly showed.

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Meeting with my phenomenography mentor, Dr. Mike Miminiris and his US-based friend Marquis Moore.

The other bookend presentation, the closing keynote by Prof. Louise Morley of the Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research in Sussex, would highlight several relevant and important points in response.

One interesting point Prof. Morley raised was that the person who identifies a problem often comes to be seen *as* the problem. Another interesting topic she raised was that bias built into the system of higher education ties to our overall economic-political model called “neo-liberalism” and this makes it nearly impossible to escape. It’s like trying to avoid air. How can we step outside this model to properly credit diverse contributions, when all the measures of performance inherently favor mainstream versions of excellence and productivity?

To help me come to terms with much of this–and excel despite being culturally different–I bought Prof. Kwiek’s book “Changing European Academics: A comparative study of social stratification, work patterns and research productivity.” If you’re interested in the details he presented, you can buy the book. I’ve also included some slides of his presentation directly below, followed by more commentary and photos of other presentations:

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An extremely informative panel with Profs. Ellen Hazelkorn and Vikki Boliver and Kalwant Bhopal.

Although I am not a positivist (similar to Prof. Kwiek), I also haven’t adopted the critical perspectives that Prof. Morley uses. I haven’t entirely rejected the neo-liberal framework, and most of my research takes an interpretivist and/or constructivist stance in that I study the status quo prior to suggesting ways to change it. I do incorporate some aspects of critical feminism and critical race theory, but these are underlying principles, not the core paradigm I use.

With regard to neo-liberalism, back during my Ph.D. studies, I really enjoyed the class I had at William and Mary called “Finance of Higher Education.” My teacher, Prof. David Leslie, studied economic trends in USA higher ed and he identified patterns like this. He exampled that in the States, there’s a direct correlation between the discipline you teach in, the pay you’ll receive teaching in that discipline, and how traditionally male- or female-dominated the profession is. This means that in the USA, I can get paid more by teaching in an architecture or engineering department than in an education department. I did look this up and found it shockingly true.

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Dr. Maryam Al-Mohammad presenting on “global citizenship” alongside Dr. Neil Harrison, both from UWE.

Fortunately, in European higher ed, the pay grades are less inherently tied to gender. On the whole, there seems to be better pay equity among disciplines in the European academy. Despite the fact that there is more equitable pay for equal work, men still reach the top echelons of higher education management/administration (and research) at much, much higher rates than women. Ireland, for example, is far behind the US where many university and community college (the US equivalent of the Irish IoT) presidents are female.

So, yes, bias regarding gender, ethnicity, physical ability, etc., etc., etc. is still extremely pervasive. Understanding bias, and visualizing why and how it happens, can help us remedy the problems.

So, even though the findings Prof. Kwiek presented were gloomy overall, he did provide me with helpful ideas for accelerating my career. I’ve been trying to break into publishing in a new discipline (I’ve moved from publishing in architecture education and education planning journals to publishing in engineering education) and the findings Prof. Kwiek reported will help me set, and meet, my goals faster. For me, having a road map of what it takes to succeed under current conditions is an important step in moving ahead and I thank Prof. Kwiek for providing such a guidebook.

A later speaker during Day 1 of the conference, Dr. Rachel Handford, noted that “possible selves” “can only include those selves that it is possible to perceive (Stevenson & Clegg, 2011; 233)” meaning that we learn what we might become and consider options before we act, but we need to see examples of possibilities first. I’ve always found this to be true, and I try to expose myself to many different people with different ways of working and seeing the world. They help me figure out what I want to be, learn, do and accomplish. There are photos of Dr. Handford’s presentation below, as well as presentations by Prof. Ming Cheng (on Chinese students studying abroad) and Drs. Cecelia Whitechurch and William Locke (on academic staff members’ techniques for gaining promotion).

I need to wrap up, though I would like to mention other highly-notable moments: three presentations on higher ed in South Africa, one presentation on low-income UK students studying abroad at elite US institutions, a fascinating panel that included Profs. Ellen Hazelkorn and Vikki Boliver and Kalwant Bhopal, a presentation by Drs. Maryam Al-Mohammad and Neil Harrison on “global citizenship”, and talks by historians Prof. John Tyler and Dr. Mike Klasser.

Prof. John Tyler delivered a keynote on the impact of WWI on higher education in Europe and his presentation was insightful. In the US, the aftermath of the Civil War and WWII were turning points for higher education. I’d say the Morrill and Hatch Acts which established the Land Grant institutions in the US mark the birth of the modern university in North America. These facilitated providing higher education to the masses. The federal government became involved in funding higher education. These funds expanded after WWII when our country needed to re-train returning vets and decided to provide money to send them to university. The US government also decided to fund research via universities, as it had worked well for the US to have Harvard run the top-secret Manhattan Project that developed the A-bomb and helped end the war. These are all things I learned in the “History of Higher Education” course I took at Old Dominion University in 2009. At SRHE, Prof. Tyler explained that the dawn of the modern university in the UK came after WWI.

In a paper presentation, Dr. Mike Klassen discussed his research on “the academization of engineering education in the United States and the United Kingdom: A neo-institutional perspective.” Dr. Klassen recently visited UCL (for our recent CEE strategy meeting) but I hadn’t learned what he was studying other than higher ed policy. At SRHE, I got to hear him present on the history of engineering education. I’m hoping that someday he’ll want to study overlaps between engineering and architecture education history and pedagogy development–again comparing North American and European traditions–and that the two of us can work together on this.

I left SRHE having forged many new contacts. I met so many people I’d like to keep in contact with and learned so many new ideas and research findings. I look forward to attending SRHE 2019 and speaking at an SRHE workshop, to be organized by Ann-Marie Bathmaker, in spring 2019.

Special Focus on Diversity

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IEEE Transactions on Education table of contents for the special focus issue on enhancing socio-cultural diversity

The new special focus issue I spearheaded for IEEE Transactions on Education just arrived in my mailbox! It arrived alongside a number of other prestigious journals on engineering and higher education.

This issue is dedicated to helping increase social and cultural diversity in engineering fields relevant to IEEE, including electrical, electronics, and computer engineering. As a result of my work on this issue, I was appointed as an Associate Editor of the journal and I have a second special focus issue underway.

To give you a bit of information on it–the November 2018 issue on socio-cultural diversity–I’m sharing an early draft of our guest editorial. You’ll find the draft below, after the list of article titles. You can visit the journal’s homepage or follow the links I’ve provided to download individual articles. Our guest editorial statement is free, but many of the others will require you to purchase the article or log in via a university library website that pays for access. Please contact me if you need help accessing articles.

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A favorite photo from my days at Hampton University, with architecture students Nataschu Brooks

Fostering diversity and supporting diverse students has always been a focus of mine. I’m proud to have been associated with Hampton University, a Historically Black University in southeast Virginia, and to have been appointed Full Professor there in 2014. I try to bring what I learned there into the work I do here in Europe every day.

I’m also proud to have done research to increase understanding of how diverse students experience engineering education. I did much of this work at Dublin Institute of Technology, and I’m extending the impact of that work today through my current appointment as a Marie Curie Research Fellow at University College London (UCL), by publishing articles and special focus issues.

Screen Shot 2018-11-30 at 11.32.36 AMPublication by UCL and the Royal Academy of Engineering

UCL has a proud history of inclusivity, having admitted women and people from diverse races and religions long before most institutions did so. My amazing colleagues in UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education (CEE)–including Jan Peters, Emanuela Tilley, and John Mitchell–worked with the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK to produce a groundbreaking report titled “Designing Inclusion into Engineering Education.” Techniques they developed have far wider applicability than just engineering, so please download a copy.

Articles in the Special Focus Issue

Description by guest editors

Universities and colleges struggle to find the best approaches for achieving diversity throughout their campus environments. Even after successfully recruiting diverse populations, challenges arise in providing appropriate support and developing engagement opportunities that help enable students’ success. Some students from minority populations may not have had schooling that was as well funded as their peers from the mainstream. They may arrive differently equipped, but not any less capable, than their peers. In this special focus issue, we asked: How do we support their efforts to succeed? How do we help faculty understand the challenges diverse students face? How can we affect change in the teaching methods they encounter?

This issue of the IEEE Transactions on Education (ToE) makes exciting contributions to the literature on teaching in fields including electrical and electronics engineering, computer engineering, and computer science. This issue represents an effort to positively influence engineering scholarship, engineering education, and engineering practice. It helps stake new territory for ToE with regard to format as well as the diversity of authors, topics, editors, and reviewers.

Regarding the presentation of content, this is ToE’s third issue to provide structured abstracts. This feature makes content more searchable and it also makes the questions guiding each study more explicit. The most noteworthy contributions and findings are identified clearly and succinctly, prior to the full text. These features help readers locate relevant content and more easily understand how the pieces fit together.

Even more importantly, this issue provides a platform for voices and perspectives from around the globe to explore facets of diversity relevant to IEEE. Although engineering education research (EER) on diversity has focused greatly on gender aspects, we aimed to explore many different aspects of diversity in this issue. All contributors provide concepts and techniques to foster equity and equality in engineering education.

The topics, authors, editors, and reviewers represent ever-widening diversity—geographically, socially, ethnically, racially, religiously, and otherwise. Our call for papers defined diversity broadly, in an effort to increase inclusion and equity in engineering classrooms and labs as well as in engineering publications. A primary intention has been to improve the participation rates of people from under-represented groups—particularly in computer science, electrical and electronic engineering, computer engineering, software engineering, and biomedical engineering—and to support their ongoing success in these fields.

The guest editors have lived and worked in multiple countries across Africa, Europe, and North America and were keen to involve diverse individuals throughout the publication process. We were acutely aware that many readers and authors of many US-based journals had lacked exposure to much of the work in EER being conducted outside the US. Citation analysis of 4321 publications across four prominent platforms—the Journal of Engineering Education (JEE), the European Journal of Engineering Education (EJEE), and conferences of both the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) and European Society of Engineering Education (SEFI)—had shown ASEE and JEE citations “are dominated by sources with US affiliations.” SEFI and EJEE reflected wider diversity in that “while US sources are frequently cited, European and other authors are also well represented (Williams, Wankat, & Neto, 2016, p. 190).” Thus, Williams et al demonstrated, “in citation terms, European EER is relatively global but US EER is not (p. 190).”

In response, the guest editors encouraged researchers active in the US to submit articles and they also worked to solicit manuscripts from around the world. They aimed to provide “complementary perspectives” as encouraged by Borrego and Bernhard (2013), whose study compared EER that originated in the US with EER from Northern and Central Europe. They found the latter tends to explore “authentic, complex problems, while U.S. approaches emphasize empirical evidence” (p. 14). They also found “disciplinary boundaries and legitimacy are more salient issues in the U.S., while the Northern and Central European Bildung philosophy integrates across disciplines toward development of the whole person” (p. 14). Informing this edition’s intent, Borrego and Bernhard asserted, “Understanding and valuing complementary perspectives is critical to growth and internationalization of EER” (p. 14).

Adopting a global perspective, this issue promotes research, advocacy, and action geared toward achieving equity. Authors have considered many facets of diversity, including race, ethnicity, economic status, religious affiliation, age, and multiple understandings of the term gender. Subsequent issues of IEEE ToE will extend this work by, for instance, featuring technologies developed to support learning in IEEE fields for people with physical disabilities. Supporting a range of approaches to diversity, this current issue features empirical research on engineering/STEM pedagogies, paying particular attention to their level of inclusivity for students and teachers from minority groups.

Research from Saudi Arabia that is included in this issue contributes new understanding of women’s experiences studying engineering there. The nation has only recently offered engineering programs in-country that are open to women; some of the engineering teachers are female, but many who deliver courses are male. Digital technologies, Mariam Elhussein and colleagues explain, are intended to bridge the divide in classrooms where women sit on one side of a glass partition while observing male teachers who deliver content. Technologies do not always achieve the desired aims, because female students explained during focus group discussions that they sometimes keep their digital devices off to avoid illuminating their faces and revealing their identities—a taboo in their culture. The study, authored by Mariam Elhussein, Dilek Düştegör, Naya Nagy, and Amani Alghamdi, is entitled “The Impact of Digital Technology on Female Students’ Learning Experience in Partition-Rooms: Conditioned by Social Context.”

Contributing new understanding regarding racially diverse learners in the US, Jumoke Ladeji-Osias et al. describe outcomes of an ongoing school program to engage black male youths in engineering and computing. These authors describe a program, running both after-school and during summers, wherein students develop mobile apps and build 3D-printed models to ignite their interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Having participated for two years, students reported more positive ideas about STEM and increased interest in attending university and entering a career in either science or app development. Unfortunately, participants did not show corresponding interest in taking science courses in school. The research team of Jumoke Ladeji-Osias, LaDawn Partlow, and Edward Dillo submitted this study, titled “Using Mobile Application Development and 3D Modeling to Encourage Minority Male Interest in Computing and Engineering.”

Contributing new understanding regarding socially and economically diverse learners who enter engineering via two-year colleges in the US, Simon Winberg and colleagues discovered a correlation between math performance in two-year colleges and persistence to graduation in the four-year degree. Such research can help educators to better advise students and recruit those likely to complete degrees. The authors mined data from institutional databases to analyze and compare the performance of transfer and non-transfer students. By calculating and comparing averages, frequencies of passes and failures, withdrawals and repeats, the authors identified factors associated with persistence-to-graduation in Bachelor of Science ECM programs. The study helps confirm prior research showing many minority students who transfer to four-year engineering programs demonstrate high levels of persistence, focus and commitment, resilience to overcome challenges, and they also had high grades at their two-year institution, cumulative and in mathematics. This study, by Simon Winberg, Christine Winberg, and Penelope Engel-Hills, is titled “Persistence, Resilience and Mathematics in Engineering Transfer Capital.”

Reporting from Spain, Noelia Olmedo-Torre et al. assess what attracts women to join STEM and select specific branches of engineering. The team collected survey data from more than 1000 women (graduates and current students) representing six different institutions of higher education. About 40% were in computing, communications, electrical and electronic engineering (CCEEE) and the rest in other STEM (non-CCEEE) fields where women are greatly under-represented. Women in CCEEE were significantly less motivated by “the possibility of working on projects ” and “the possibility of working as part of a team” than those outside CCEEE. This study also reveals women’s perceptions of why others avoid CCEEE majors. The article was submitted by Noelia Olmedo-Torre, Fermín Sánchez Carracedo, Núria Salán Ballesteros, David López, Antoni Perez-Poch, and Mireia López-Beltrán and it asks, “Do Female Motives for Enrolling Vary According to STEM Profile?”

In a similar study from the US, Geoff Potvin et al. worked together to assess how gender relates to an individual’s level of interest in electrical, computer, and biomedical engineering and to identify how these interests relate to students’ expectations of careers in each branch. They analyzed data collected from women and compared these data with people who had not identified themselves as women. The female group showed more interest in bioengineering/biomedical engineering and less interest in electrical and computer engineering. They associated the career outcome of “helping others” but not “supervising others” with bioengineering and/or biomedical engineering more strongly than non-female students did. Overall, students in this study associated inventing and designing things as well as “developing new knowledge and skills” with electrical engineering, whereas they envisioned inventing and designing things but not “working with people” in computer engineering. The research team was comprised of Geoff Potvin, Catherine McGough, Lisa Benson, Hank Boone, Jacqueline Doylek, Allison Godwin, Adam Kirn, Beverly Ma, Jacqueline Rohde, Monique Ross, and Dina Verdin, who worked together to assess “Gendered Interests in Electrical, Computer and Biomedical Engineering: Intersections With Career Outcome Expectations.”

Two articles identify gender bias evident in team projects in engineering classrooms, that tends to go undetected and/or unreported by students. First, in a small-scale study with clear relevance in engineering classrooms around the globe, Laura Hirshfield’s US-based analysis shows that when students self-report regarding team performance and team dynamics, they may fail to see and/or report differences that have to do with the way they interact and allocate tasks. Although individuals submitted team assessments and interviews describing effective collaboration and a lack of gender bias in allocating roles, self-reports did not match the author’s observations nor the data she collected via interviews. Dynamics and assignments reflected visible gender bias, the author reports, yet male and female students reported the same levels of confidence and said they were similarly satisfied with their teams. To achieve greater equity, the author urges readers to look deeper and consider forms of stereotyping and gender bias that influence students’ experiences. Laura Hirshfield’s article is titled “Equal But Not Equitable: Self-Reported Data Obscures Gendered Differences in Project Teams.”

Similarly, authors Robin R. Fowler and Magel P. Su identified “Gendered Risks of Team-Based Learning: A Model of Inequitable Task Allocation in Project-Based Learning.” In this second article, we see that the jobs that are assigned by the team to its various members often fall along gender lines–sometimes because of assumptions made by team members and sometimes because individuals want to play it safe and promise things they know they can deliver well. This can hinder the diversity of experience they get and how well-rounded their skills ultimately become by way of the project.

Two of the papers in this issue focus on educators’ experiences. Reporting from India, Anika Gupta et al. have analyzed the ratings male and female students assign to their teachers as measures of the teaching quality. They identified statistically significant differences in the ratings given—differences that correspond to the teachers’ gender and socio-economic status. In addition to bias regarding socio-economic status, this research team also found same-gender and cross-gender biases that yielded statistically different scores for teaching. The team gathered over 100,000 complete surveys—comparing groups from (a) civil engineering, (b) computer science and engineering, (c) electrical engineering, (d) humanities and social sciences, and (e) mathematics. Similar to the study by Potvin et al., these results illustrate student perceptions of various majors. In this case, statistics showed that interaction between a student’s gender and socio-economic status and those characteristics of the teacher influenced the student’s evaluation of the teacher. As student evaluations are used to inform faculty promotion and retention decisions, it is reasonable to question the validity of the data they provide. The paper was submitted by Anika Gupta, Deepak Garg, and Parteek Kumar and is titled “Analysis of Students’ Ratings of Teaching Quality to Understand the Role of Gender and Socio-Economic Diversity in Higher Education.”

Kat Young and colleagues have assessed participation in audio engineering conferences, a field that remains strongly male-dominated. Their work provides a new tool for determining the gender of participants who do not report their own data, such as in cases where they are listed as authors in various publications and conference proceedings. The techniques presented in this paper consider that not all individuals identify in a binary way. As such, this manuscript contributes new knowledge related to LGTBQ+ and how to determine what gender an author would ascribe to their self in instances where they have not been asked to provide that data. The team analyzed four aspects of data from 20 conferences—looking at conference topic, presentation type, position in the author byline, and the number of authors involved. Data revealed a low representation of non-male authors at conferences on audio engineering as well as the significant variance in conference topic by gender, and the distinct lack of gender diversity across invited presentations. This paper is titled “The Impact of Gender on Conference Authorship in Audio Engineering: Analysis Using a New Data Collection Method” and it was submitted by Kat Young, Michael Lovedee-Turner, Jude Brereton, and Helena Daffern.

Prior research has shown that including diverse perspectives on STEM teams enables more robust and innovative designs (Hunt et al, 2018) and that cross-disciplinary teaming that can facilitate pooling of diverse perspectives is difficult to achieve in practice (Edmondson & Harvey, 2017). A challenge for engineering educators is to ensure the perspectives of diverse individuals we now recruit are fully heard—that all participants have the opportunity to have their contributions considered and valued. Many instructors have had little or no training on pedagogical approaches within STEM. Even well-intentioned instructors may not understand how team formation and management of teams can help reinforce peer teamwork, and they may not recognize that poorly managed and conducted can deplete the confidence of women and others outside the classroom’s mainstream. Instructors who are accustomed to assigning team projects may not be providing guidance and support and thus may ultimately throw students together, simply expecting them to be collaborative, equitable, and productive but not explaining how to achieve this. As a result, students may not perceive group work as a recipe for success, but rather an obstacle course suited to the fittest.

In this special issue of ToE, authors have presented insights generated through the study of student learning experiences. Some authors have introduced innovative methods to measure the impacts of new pedagogical approaches within institutions. Several have investigated pitfalls that could detract from the effectiveness and inclusiveness of teams. Others increased understanding of gender-identification procedures for researchers—this group also exposed perpetual underlying biases in the speaker-invitation process that all IEEE disciplines may benefit from assessing.

Diversity and inclusion are not a post-processing task tacked on in a course or mentioned in a lecture. A well-thought-out, integrated plan that places value on the different perspective of students from diverse backgrounds, genders and life-experiences. Educators are beginning to foster a sense of belonging by adopting techniques for “cohort building” among diverse groups of students. This can help bridge the gulf many students experience when they move from secondary school into higher education. Such techniques can help ensure diverse students’ expectations are met, so students do not find themselves isolated or alone.

The guest editors hope you enjoy this special issue of IEEE Transactions on Education and are able to incorporate some of the methods presented here—to help create a generation of future leaders and innovators. The editors encourage readers to review emerging calls for action in diversity recently published by The Power Electronics Industry Collaborative (PEIC), ASEE, and SEFI.

In this issue, editors channeled their efforts towards achieving fairness and holistic well being, and toward fostering a community of engineers who can address global challenges, act with vision and confidence, and develop effective and robust responses to engineering problems. When students are prepared with superior STEM skills and equipped with life-skills, they will be able to build their own interest-related cohorts and will be able to seek out the resources they need, without being afraid to ask for them. A more diverse group will be prepared to address global challenges.

—Shannon Chance, Laura Bottomley, Karen Panetta, and Bill Williams

References

Borrego, M., & Bernhard, J. (2011). The emergence of engineering education research as an internationally connected field of inquiry. Journal of Engineering Education100(1), 14-47.

Edmondson, A. C., & Harvey, J. F. (2017). Cross-boundary teaming for innovation: Integrating research on teams and knowledge in organizations. Human Resource Management Review.

Hunt, V., Prince, S., Dixon-Fyle, S., & Yee, L. (2018). Delivering through diversity. McKinsey & Company Report. Retrieved April3, 2018.

Williams, B., Wankat, P. C., & Neto, P. (2018). Not so global: a bibliometric look at engineering education research. European Journal of Engineering Education43(2), 190-200.

Perched atop UCL for an Away Day strategizing engineering education

Perched high above UCL, in the penthouse Marconi room, University College London’s engineering education experts assembled on November 29th at the uppermost point of the Bloomsbury campus to discuss progress and strategy for the future. I was delighted with the sweeping views toward East London, where I live, and my co-researcher Dr. Inês Direito and I selected seats where we could watch the color of the sky shift throughout the day.

UCL staff from the Institute of Education (IoE), Arena Centre for Research-Base Education, and Faculty of Engineering Sciences (Integrated Engineering Programme and the Centre for Engineering Education where I’m working) joined together for a half-day retreat. We started with a light lunch so that we could get re-acquainted and welcome a guest from McGill University in Canada. I myself am here for two years as a Marie Curie Research Fellow, on a career break from Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT).

Our Centre for Engineering Education (CEE) has two directors. Professor David Guile is from the Institute of Education and Professor John Mitchell is from the Faculty of Engineering Sciences. John ran the meeting.

After introductions, we got updates on CEE activities as well as a synopsis of our core mission. Emanuela Tilley, Director of UCL’s Integrated Engineering Programme (IEP) provide an update and John Mitchell described progress building the university’s new campus in Stratford, East London. The campus is called Here East and will eventually include space for our Centre.

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Emanuela Tilley providing updates on UCL’s award-winning IEP

We learned about the new Masters in Engineering and Education that CEE and IoE recently launched. There are six MSc students in the current, inagural cohort and its organizers anticipate bringing in 20 additional students next year. I’ll be delivering a session for this degree program in January, on learning theories. I’m hoping that DIT’s MSc in aBIMM (Masters in applied Building Information Modeling and Management technologies) can provide a helpful precedent for organizing the thesis portion of the program, as my colleagues Deborah Brennan and Dr. Avril Behan have already achieved creative solutions to address the types of challenges our UCL team faces, as identified by Jay Derrick and David Guile. I’ll work to connect these four people.

Near the end of the meeting, Inês and I provided updates on our current and planned research projects. I mentioned contributions we’ve made to the larger community of engineering education researchers, running multiple workshops at SEFI 2018, providing leadership on journals like IEEE Transactions on Education, and collaborating with the CREATE research group at DIT, my home institution. I wrapped up by identifying the research projects that we have in progress—two that use phenomenology as well as two phenomenographic studies and two systematic reviews. I should have mentioned the special focus issue I have underway on using design projects to promote student development, but I forgot!

Continental Conference-Hopping

img_4547It’s been a hectic few weeks, beginning with Inspirefest in Dublin, Ireland (21-22 June) to the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) conference in Salt Lake City (June 24-27), a quick visit to Virginia Tech and around the state, and ending today with the UK Royal Academy of Engineering and University College London Centre for Engineering Education’s symposium on Inclusive Engineering Education (July 9-10).

Inspirefest: Women in Tech

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Live drawing made during my sister Heather’s performance of “Hedy! The Live and Inventions of Hedy Lamar”, by Liza Donnelly.

Inspirefest is an annual celebration of women in technology, and this was its fourth year. It’s organized by Ann O’Dea and Silicon Republic. I attend the very first year it was held, and was invited this year as a VIP since my sister, Heather Massie, was performing the one-woman play she wrote, produces, and performs. The play is “Hedy! The Life and Inventions of Hedy Lamar” and Heather has been performing it all over the world. Just before heading to Dublin, she spent five weeks performing around Zimbabwe and South Africa. A major highlight of this year’s Inspirefest was Heather’s abbreviated 65-minute performance in one of Ireland’s largest theaters, the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre.

Other highlights this year were the opening address by Ireland’s Minister for Health, Simon Harris, Ranjani Kearsley’s talk, “it’s time to level the playing field”, meeting new friends and reconnecting with ones I’d met at the first Insirpefest, like head STEMette, Anne-Marie Imafadon. Many of the talks were recorded and made available online.

I’ve inserted a small gallery below with a few pictures from Inspirefest of Heather, me, and other special guests. My colleague and frequent co-author, Bill Williams flew in from Portugal on other business and joined us for Heather’s play. I’ve also included photos with Ann O’Dea, Anne-Marie Imafadon, and Mary Carty, who I met at the first Inspirefest.

ASEE

I hopped on a plane to Salt Lake City to attend my first ever ASEE conference. I presented two research papers at this event:

Chance, S. M. & Williams, W. (2018). Preliminary findings of a phenomenological study of Middle Eastern women’s experiences studying engineering in Ireland. American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Chance, S. M. & Duffy, G. (2018). A model for spurring organizational change based on faculty experiences working together to implement Problem-Based Learning. American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) conference in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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My first ASEE conference!

You can download and read the papers at the links above. At ASEE, I met many people who I’ve been collaborating with online, and developed new friendships as well. I attended many sessions, caught up with colleagues like former Fulbright scholars to DIT, Drs. Stephanie Ferrall (the incoming ASEE president) and Sheryl Sorby (a director of the ASEE), and met some all-stars like Prof. John Heywood and Prof. Karl Smith. Professor Smith has been bringing experts and theories from student development to speak at this conference for decades, and I hope to carry on his work.

Virginia Tech–my home place

I made a stopover in Virginia, en route back to London, taking a few days to work from home as well as four days of holiday to visit family and friends.

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Visiting Nicky Wolmarans and Jenni Case at Virginia Tech.

Virginia Tech has one of the USA’s two university schools dedicated to Engineering Education, so I grabbed the opportunity to meet with the schools’ new head, Dr. Jennifer Case, and her colleague from the University of Cape Town, Dr. Nicky Wolmarans.

Other highlights of being in Virginia were visiting my dad, dear friends (Katie, Mary, John, Wendy), aunt and uncle (Kitty and Glen), former professor (Pam Eddy) and former student (Luanna Marins) and their families (Dave and Afonzo), some former colleagues (Tony), Virginia Beach (but for a very short 1.5 hours), and my mom for a visit to the Udvar Hazy Center (a branch of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport).

Inclusive Engineering Education Symposium

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Got back to London in time for UCL’s two-day symposium on Inclusive Engineering Education Symposium!

Landing in London Sunday morning left me a bit of time to rest up for the Inclusive Engineering Education Symposium, hosted by my colleagues in UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education. This was a chance to hear from industry leaders as to what steps they have taken to diversify and to welcome a new publication by the Royal Academy and UCL with tools and techniques for making engineering classrooms more inclusive.

The picture gallery below shows all these events and more….

 

Sharing research at EERN

The Engineering Education Research Network (EERN) for the UK and Ireland met today at Newcastle University. Since one third of the presentations at this colloquium were delivered by DIT’s research group called CREATE (for Contributions to Research in Engineeing and Applied Technology Education), I got to catch up with my beloved colleagues from Dublin.

Yesterday, Emma Whitney, a colleague at UCL asked me to Tweet the events since three of us from UCL were attending. She gave me a few pointers for Tweeting, and I gave it a go.

@shannonchance7 has never had much success with Twitter. But with Emma’s tips I was able to do a respectable job (although I can’t get Twitter working now, on the train back to London, so perhaps I downed the platform!?).

It was great hearing about the #engineeringeducation #educationresearch folks are doing across Ireland and the UK.

This was the first EERN event with specific discussions to help support and guide PhD students and early-career/newer researchers. I actually feel that we’re all new to this! It’s an emerging field of research and were working hard to establish the methods, publications, conferences, and knowledge-sharing networks.

I’m delighted to be part of such a vibrant community, dedicated to improving the student experience and the quality of learning. I’ve uploaded photos of the conference and also of my morning exploration in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. It’s a lovely little city and I’ll hope to return again some day.

Able Nyamapfene from UCL.

The DIT CREATE contingent. DIT’s Una Beagon. Rebecca Broadbent from Astin University. DIT’s Darren McCarthy. DIT’s Gavin Duffy. EERN colloquium organizers, Jane Andrews and Roger Penlimgton. Shannon, Darren, Rachel, Robert, Una, Brian (with Gavin MIA for the selfie)

Work and play in South Africa: Teaching and sightseeing in Jo’burg

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I was filling in for Dr. Kate Roach, and she provided many of the slides. Fortunately, I was able to draw from three decades of running group learning activities and from my own research on teamwork and Problem Based Learning. It helped me bring the topics to life.

What a memorable four days Shade and I had in Johannesburg, teaching the master class on teamwork I recently blogged. In this post, I’m sharing photos Shade mailed me in addition to snapshots I took on our day of sightseeing.

This master class was one of eight organized by the University of Cape Town to help engineering educators in South Africa develop new knowledge and skills. The overall set of workshops is being taught by my employer, University College London and its Center for Engineering Education.

This was the fourth workshop in the series. This particular session was held at the OM Tambo conference center–the site, the weather, and the food were all amazing. The experience transformed my impression of Johannesburg and has me wanting to return. The overwhelming sense of Apartheid I felt on my prior visit had left me feeling anxious, but gaining insight and making diverse friends has me seeing the place with a new, more optimistic outlook.

Two engineering professors from the University of Johannesburg graciously offered to show us the city on the last day of our trip. Thanks to Johannes (Yannis) Bester and Zachary (Zach) Simpson spending the day with us and giving us an insider perspective of what it’s been like to live, work, and teach in Johannesburg.

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Dr. Folashade (Shade) Akinmolayan and me visiting the University of Johannesburg campus where Yannis and Zach teach engineering.

Thanks to Yannis and Zach we got to visit two campuses of the University of Johannesburg–including a stop off to Yannis’ home which is located on the main campus. We also got to visit two sites of my choosing: the Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill.

The Apartheid Museum explains the history and events surrounding the system of Apartheid used in South Africa (1948-1991) to segregate people by race. It’s a scary history indeed, but one that we must not forget.

Of our sightseeing group, only two of us had visited this particular museum before.During my 2005 visit I’d not had enough time to absorb everything, and the same happened again. In the gallery below, you’ll see two fo the special exhibitions in the museum right now. One focuses on Nelson Mandela. The other focuses on Winnie Mandela.

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Visiting the Apartheid Museum is a very solum experience.

We broke for lunch at the Apartheid Museum and then continued on to Constitution Hill, a former jail where Nelson Mandela was briefly kept before he was moved to the prison on Robins Island. Political prisoners were considered the most dangerous to the Apartheid “leadership” and they were kept separate from other prisoners. During Apartheid one could be jailed for nearly anything and life in jail was truly awful for most. Nelson Mandela did convince many of the jailers on Robins Island to see his point-of-view and some to advocate for his release. Nevertheless, he spent 27 years behind bars for promoting his political beliefs.

Before seeing this exhibition, I hadn’t known how important his mother’s Christian values and his early schooling by Western missionaries had been on shaping Nelson Mandela’s outlook on life. I had wondered how he’d maintained his determination to resit Apartheid so peacefully, when even Winnie (his second of three wives) promoted violent resistance at times.

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Shade and I after the tour at Constitution Hill we took with Yannis.

Today, Constitution Hill is the site where South Africa’s Constitutional Court meets. This group of judges deliberates on constitutional matters only. The front door of the Court illustrates the fundamental principles of today’s South African Constitution. However, this court is constantly considering how to best protect and balance individual and collective rights.

At Constitution Hill we took a guided tour and we visited the formal court chambers as well as the former men’s and women’s prisons. The old stair wells have been left standing to help show the extent of the former prison, though much of the prison building was removed and the bricks used in the modernization. The entry lobby and the court chamber are lovely modern buildings designed by OMM Design Workshop and Urban Solutions. For more on the design of the building, please visit “THE STORY OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT.”

I’ve posted seven separate photo galleries below:

  1. Conference center and workshop
  2. Driving through the city of Johannesburg and visiting the University of Jo’burg
  3. Apartheid Museum
  4. Nelson Mandela
  5. Winnie Mandela
  6. Constitution Hill court
  7. Constitution Hill former jails

Conference center and workshop

Jo’burg city and the University of Johannesburg

Apartheid Museum

Nelson Mandela

 

Winnie Mandela

Constitution Hill court

Constitution Hill former jails

 

Engineering Education in South Africa: Facilitating Teamwork and Celebrating Diversity

My sister and I just crossed paths, like (air)ships in the night, at Johannesburg’s O. M. Tambo airport. At precisely the time my University College London colleague, Dr. Folashade Akinmolayan, and I were taking off from Tambo yesterday, my sister, Heather Massie, was boarding a plane in New York City. Heather was en route to the same airport.

Although Heather and I didn’t physically meet at Tambo airport, we were together in spirit–united by common causes and with more than just our flight itineraries overlapping. Finding ourselves in southern Africa at the same time would seem to be chance, but it also reflects who we are as people. It reflects values—of science, of learning, and of equality among people—that our parents instilled in us from our earliest days. Heather and I learned well from our mom (Cynthia Mara) and dad (Don Massie), and the values they gave us shape how we see the world, and how and where we work today.

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Shannon with Cynthia and Heather one Christmas after Mom’s trip to Japan.

Heather and I are both STEM (science, engineering, technology, and maths) educators, but of wildly different sorts. We both do outreach and community engagement activities with groups of diverse people and in under-served places. We both use “audience” participation to share our passions in STEM with others. We teach in spontaneous, improvisational, and highly interactive ways. We both see people as individuals and we bond quickly with others. We value our diverse friends, colleagues, and communities. We see diversity as an essential feature of creativity and we view it holistically—believing that identity is dynamic and ever-evolving and that people work everyday to develop their own identities with regard to gender, race, ethnicity and nationality, belief system, physical ability, sexual orientation and the intersection of all these and more.

As a result, Heather will be in Zimbabwe and South Africa for the next five weeks, performing her critically acclaimed one-woman play about Heady Lamar. Lamar was a Hollywood screen star, an impassioned inventor, and a self-educated engineer. She developed technology that makes all our wifi and bluetooth devices work!

Shade and Shannon workshop title slideSimilar to Heather, I was in Johannesburg this past week, facilitating a workshop for 26 engineering educators from all over South Africa.

Via this workshop, Dr. Folashade “Shade” Akinmolayan and I shared what we have learned and implemented in practice. We shared what we know from our research on group-based learning and from what we have lived, by assigning team projects to students at University College London (UK), Dublin Institute of Technology (Ireland), and Hampton University (USA).

img_0621Shade and I were invited to teach this Master class (one of eight multi-day seminars on teaching and learning coordinated by South African engineering educators) because we are both part of UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education. Shade is a chemical engineer with a doctorate in engineering and a focus on team-based learning. She coordinates group- and problem-based learning for the Chemical Engineering Department at UCL, though she will soon move to a new university where she will contribute to the development of an innovative new curriculum in chemical engineering–from the ground up. As for me, I’m an architecture professor from the USA who uses group-based approached to teach students in architecture, engineering, and education. I’ve taught workshops on such topics to other higher ed teachers at DIT, Hampton U, and William and Mary.

Shade intro slideShade and I found the 26 South African participants in our two-day workshop on facilitating teamwork in engineering education to be extremely energetic and engaged. They were passionate about teaching. They were enthusiastic about learning, sharing ideas, and creating new knowledge. We discussed ways to address the specific challenges they face and strategies to help support the range of diverse students in their classrooms. Drawing from experience teaching in many different places really helped.

All 26 participants were eager to discuss techniques, goals, and challenges surrounding their own efforts to facilitate learning in teams.

Shade and I made a pretty dynamic duo, if I do say so myself. We really worked well together and delivered a workshop of top quality. We will look for opportunities to offer this workshop again. Please let us know if you have ideas for future venues–for our team building workshop, or for Heather’s play.

Shannon intro slideAlthough Shade and I had literally just met—finding each other at the airport as we departed London for Johannesburg—we made great use of the day we had before the workshop to refine our plans, get to know each other, and learn to work together.

The workshop went off without a hitch, and the learning the 28 of us achieved was highly impressive. As Shade remarked, the event was a great confidence booster for us as workshop facilitators. It was, in my view, a confidence booster for all 28 of us (participants and facilitators) because we are all engineering educators trying to innovate our teaching practices so that students learn more and develop a wider range of skills crucial for engineers to have, and we all walked away with stronger and more robust strategies.

We received this very kind email at the conclusion of the workshop:

Dear Organisers,

Good day.

I wish to express my heart-felt gratitude to all the organisers and funding partners for the invitation and funding to participate in the Master Class programme of 24 – 25 April 2018.

It highlighted, in a detailed and understandable manner effective teamwork fundamentals, strategies and ethics.

The facilitators showed quality planning, timeliness and precision in delivery and coordination that motivated active participation: leading to a hugely successful programme.

While looking forward to participate in future programmes, kindly please accept my respect and regards.

Thank you.

With kind regards,

Williams Kehinde Kupolati

What a lovely message to receive!

This wasn’t the first trip to South Africa for Heather or me, although it was Shade’s first time going there (she’s a British citizen, born and raised in London).

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I was in Jo’burg and Cape Town in 2004, when Professor Brad Grant and I brought a group of Hampton University students there to study urban design. Wee looked at how urban design has been used to enforce racial and ethnic segregation. We also studied how contemporary architects and designers are working to counteract the adverse effects of decades of segregation and strife. I produced a booklet about the HU trip to South Africa. I can’t get the blog platform to upload the document for you, but please just email me to get a PDF copy. My email address is: irelandbychance [at] gmail [dot] com.

Heather was in Zimbabwe and Cape Town last year, performing as Hedy Lamar and conducting play-writing workshops. That followed a visit she made with our dear family friend, the late African-American playwright Leslie Lee. Leslie’s memory lives on the in the work Heather does every day. Now, Heather is back in Zimbabwe and South Africa again, with an action-packed itinerary that will look something like this:

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For details and performance dates, see www.HeatherMassie.com/HEDY

Harare International Festival of the Arts – Harare, Zimbabwe – May 3, 4 & 6, 2018

Unizulu Science Centre, Science Festival – Durban, South Africa – May 9-12, 2018

Women in Tech – Cape Town, South Africa – tbd May (17, 21 or 22), 2018

Thope Foundation – Cape Town, Khayelitsha, South Africa – May 18 & 19, 2018

Makukhanye Art Room – Cape Town, Khayelitsha, South Africa – May 20, 2018

George Arts Theatre – George, South Africa – May 24-26, 2018

Sci-Bono Discovery Centre – Johannesburg, South Africa – May 28 – June 1, 2018

As of this past Wednesday, the only definite dates with set show times were the Harare ones, but she will probably be performing on all of the listed dates. Please check Heather’s website for specific show times.

Here’s a gallery of images from the workshop:

I hope to share images from our tour of Johannesburg in a future post.