Category: Teaching Innovations


Learning to train new and upcoming researchers, I recently welcomed an intern from the States. Allison “Allie” Wagner has been here at DIT since the start of January, as part of the Masters in Higher Education Administration she is completing at the Central Michigan University. She is working with me for a total of two months.

In her time here, Allie is learning about how we manage programs at DIT and what it is like for students to live and study here. She is also doing a research project with me. We have conducted phenomenological interviews with five female students from the Middle East, and we hope to interview 2-3 more. This adds a “longitudinal” component to my prior research, since I interviewed all five of these women two years ago. Allie and I are following up to see what new expediences these women have had and how things have changed for them.

Overall, we want to produce a journal article with findings to help teachers do a better job in supporting international students — and particularly Muslim women studying engineering in Western contexts.

 


 

 

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After the lecture at KTH, with two librarians and two architecture profs, including my former classmate from Virginia Tech, Eric Stenberg.

Professor Jonte Burnhard invited me to KTH in Stockholm to deliver a guest lecture on what we–as education specialists, architecture educators, and researchers of engineering education–can learn from each other and from the pedagogical models used to teach architecture. Jonte had read a recent article, “Using Architecture Design Studio Pedagogies to Enhance Engineering Education,” that I’d published along with John Marshall and Gavin Duffy in IJEE. You can access the article at: http://arrow.dit.ie/engscheleart2/102)

The learning and teaching center at KTH hosts this type of lecture/workshop every couple weeks, to get the institution’s staff thinking about and discussing good ways to teach. In addition to classroom educators, quite a few of KTH’s librarians also attended the event, as well.

While at KTH, I enjoyed a dozen small-group discussions on pedagogical topics, toured the brand new architecture building, and caught up with a former classmate, Eric Stenberg,  from Virginia Tech’s architecture program. I’m hoping to visit KTH again soon, since we have so many overlapping interests.

I stayed though the weekend, before heading to Brussels on Sunday evening, and I’ve attached photos of the Christmas sights.

Cecilia Hartsell, an inspiring historian and PhD candidate conducting research here in Dublin, chaired a workshop on Saturday (February 27, 2016) to help people learn about the use of primary documents in research conducted by historians. This was one of six separate events Cecilia is organizing to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Uprising that eventually garnered Ireland’s independence from British rule.

The event was held at the Pearce Street Library (a street named for one a hero of the 1916 Uprising) included a keynote lecture by a historian from Trinity College Dublin named Brian Hanley, tea and coffee, a short talk on the evaluation and usefulness of primary documents by Cecilia Hartsell, and time for participants to work in small groups to study primary documents related to the uprising. In the end, each group presented its findings and we discussed what we’d learned.

I’m looking forward to Cecilia’s upcoming events!

Shannon Chance IJEEI’m celebrating the publication of a new journal article today, with the help of Sally O’Neill. She’s one of the librarians here at DIT, and she secured permission and posted the article on DIT’s website, making it free for you and anyone else to download.

The publishing process is glacially slow. I submitted the paper in March 2014, based on a conference paper delivered in 2013. And here I am, in February 2016, with the final publication finally in hand.

Many time, in research, it takes time to see the results of your work. Seeing this in print helps make all these days, sitting at a computer analyzing text, feel more worthwhile. Once I can see that people are downloading it, and once I start getting feedback and citations in other people’s research papers, I’ll celebrate some more.

I know what I’ve learned through this research is useful, because I get to apply it in the classroom and in the design studio. The rewards of printed research are more slow to crystallize but also extremely important, especially for people who want to gain credibility in research and build a career around research.

This new article, written with the help of John Marshall in Michigan and Gavin Duffy here in Dublin, is about Using Architecture Design Studio Pedagogies to Enhance Engineering Education. Simply put, we believe that design education and hands-on forms of learning can help improve the quality and experience of learning in engineering and other STEM disciplines. The results reported in this paper provide support for that claim.

To give you a feel for what I’m describing, this is how we learn in architecture:

Above are pictures from design studios in Lisbon at IST and one for a study abroad program  offered by Hampton University. Very, very hands-on!

These days I’m helping promote similar ways of teaching engineering, which looks similar in many respects:

These are photos from electrical and mechanical engineering projects I’ve helped conduct at Dublin Institute of Technology.

This brand new article is about a specific design studio, conducted at the University of Michigan, that blurred the boundaries distinguishing art and science. It involved students and teachers from architecture, materials science engineering, and art+design working together to design and build “SmartSurfaces.” The paper reports learning outcomes — things the students learned in the  class — as illustrated by the blogs they posted during the semester. Here’s a glimpse of what that experience was like for those students:

For this new paper, I created a matrix to describe design behaviors in relationship to epistemological development (which has to do with how we view knowledge). I compared what the students wrote in their blogs to the definitions in my chart. Doing this, I was able to identify development of design skills as a result of students working in groups, and I even pinpointed some instances of epistemological development. John and Gavin helped check the work so that it would be more credible and reliable. They offered perspectives of insiders in the studio (John) and outsiders interested in group-based learning, Problem Based Leaning (PBL), engineering education, and epistemological development (Gavin).

This article should be of interest to any teacher who wants to help students develop new design, design thinking, or epistemological skills. Please feel free to read it and email me any questions you have, at irelandbychance [at] gmail [dot] com.

Chance, S., Marshall, J. and Duffy, G. (2016) Using Architecture Design Studio Pedagogies to Enhance Engineering EducationInternational Journal of Engineering Education Vol. 32, No. 1(B), pp. 364–383, 2016.

Maria's viva 5What an honor to be part of the day a young scholar gets her wings, so to speak, by earning her PhD! Last week I travelled to Lisbon to attend the viva (i.e., PhD defense) of Maria Alexandre Bacharel Oliveira Carreira. I had met with Maria on both of my two prior visits to the Instituto Superior Técnico at the Universidade de Lisboa. I really enjoyed watching her work unfold.

This time, I was a member of her evaluation panel. I curled up with her thesis each night while I was in Brussels. Preparing for this panel event took many hours for me–but it took five years for Maria! During that time Maria gave birth to two children, but that didn’t slow her down much. She kept plugging away at her research.

She conducted extensive analysis of spaces that support teaching and learning. The title of her dissertation (which in Europe is called a thesis) is In-between Formality and Informality: Learning Spaces in University Context. The European term “viva voice” (meaning “live voice”) is so much nicer than the term “dissertation defense” used in the States.

Maria's viva 00After 2.5 hours of presenting her work and answering questions–posed by the panel of 6 experts (I myself had 40 minutes to talk about her work and ask questions of her)–Maria and her many family members and friends who had come to the event left the room. The panel discussed the merits of the work, deliberated, then invited Maria and the crowd back into the presentation room to pronounce her a PhD with distinction. We all went for a celebratory luncheon in the afternoon.

Once Maria has submitted the final version of her thesis, I’ll try to post a link. In the meantime, you may be interested to read two of the articles I have written that have to do with topics in her thesis.

The first is about how the design of school buildings can enhance learning and help us achieve environmental sustainability:

 

Chance, S. and Cole, J. T. (2014) “Enhancing Building Performance and Environmental Learning: A Case Study of Virginia Beach Public Schools ” City Public Schools. Book chapter from the book entitled “Marketing the green school: form, function and the future.

The second is about university buildings. It also discusses how buildings can promote learning, by serving as examples, modeling values, and getting people engaged. It’s about environmental sustainability and how LEED has become an example of organizational learning (i.e., a big organization that effectively learns from past experience, using it to improve future performance):

Chance, S. (2012) Planning for Environmental Sustainability : Learning from LEED and the USGBCPlanning for Higher Education, Vol. 41, No. 1, Oct-Dec, 2012.

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A colleague from Virginia Beach, J. Timothy Cole, and I published a chapter in the recently-released textbook called:

Marketing the Green School: Form, Function, and the Future

Our chapter is called:

Enhancing Building Performance and Environmental Learning: A Case Study of Virginia Beach City Public Schools

This abstract summarizes the article so you can tell if you’d like to read it:

“School buildings directly affect their natural and socio-cultural environments. They do this through their construction, maintenance, operation, and demolition. Most of the school buildings we have in stock today drain natural resources and inadvertently perpetuate a culture of environmental, social, and long-term economic ignorance and misuse. When approached thoughtfully, however, the design of school buildings can help inform and enrich society. Well-designed buildings can impart environmental knowledge and values. They can foster more effective behaviors among the people who learn in and from them. Effectively designed buildings can also conserve natural resources and—at their best—even help replenish the natural environment. For many school leaders today, participation in green certification programs represents one important step toward improved building and learning performance. This chapter provides a case study of successful learning approaches developed by Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS).”

Here’s the introduction:

“Aimed toward educators and school administrators, this chapter provides a broad overview of design issues related to sustainability. It proffers concrete examples drawn from Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) to enhance performance at the level of the building, classroom, district, and region. VBCPS’s environmental approach integrates educational planning with facilities planning. Its facilities department has been driving change in school design, classroom pedagogy, purchasing, transportation, and even regional design standards.

The examples in this chapter provide a snapshot of one moment in an ongoing process. They illustrate how one innovative school system is generating and applying new knowledge for the benefit of its buildings’ users, the local public, the wider education community, and the world. Overall, VBCPS strives to provide the best possible environments for learning teaching and living. Its efforts include:

• Integrating environmental issues throughout the curriculum
• Preparing students to bring new knowledge into the community and share it with their families and employers
• Introducing new construction techniques to the region
• Encouraging architects and builders to reach for higher standards
• Monitoring the division’s environmental performance and continually seeking to improve
• Disseminating their research and techniques for broad adaption
• Monitoring its own (and its community’s) energy and waste flows
• Striving to achieve net-zero carbon emission
In this chapter, we provide rationale and theoretical underpinnings for green school design, and we share successful practices developed by VBCPS. Knowledge in the realm of environmental design and education is continually evolving. As such, any list of “best practices” is in constant flux. In writing this chapter, we seek to provide a description of some of the best practices we have discovered and/or created up to this point in time.

Most environmentalists have adopted the World Commission on Environment and Development’s (1987) definition of sustainable development as that which “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (p. 43). The “green building” movement fosters new strategies to help overcome outdated construction practices that require vast material resources and cause tremendous waste and pollution. Today, North America’s over-reliance on cheap energy has reached crisis proportions (Steffen, 2008; Wackernagel & Rees, 1996). All told, buildings consume 65% of the electric power used in the United States (Landsmark, 2008). They use 36% of all energy used and 30% of all raw materials. Buildings are responsible for half of greenhouse emissions from the US (Gifford, n.d.; Udall & Schendler, 2005). Educational facilities have been among the worst, although higher education buildings seem to waste more energy than K-12 because control systems are looser (Leslie & Fretwell, 1996).

Recently, VBCPS analyzed all sources of emissions within its control, using data from 2006-2010. It found that even though its overall energy consumption had steadily declined across the five-year period, its building-related activity still accounted for 65% of VBCPS’s overall emissions. Its second largest source of emissions related to transporting people and goods. Its calculations considered electricity use, combustion from paper/stationary waste, and losses related to the transmission and distribution of electrical power. School leaders are working to address the division’s primary sources of emissions, through integrated strategies that involve enhanced building performance, revised vehicle fleet policies, and more informed commuting habits of students and employees. Leaders are also creating strategies to control the 1% of its green house gas emissions that resulted from solid waste, refrigerants, chemicals, and wastewater.”

“The Irish Times” is running a series on women in STEM. I was quoted in today’s article.

The reporter chopped out all the caveats a researcher like me uses (tends to, most, lends support…) but all in all I’m very pleased to have been able to bring student development theory into the conversation here.

What you see depends upon where and how you look....

What you see depends upon where and how you look….

In engineering, the teaching-from-the-podium-by-manual-and-textbook approach simply isn’t working.  It’s not attracting enough students to study engineering.  It’s not engaging and fascinating enough of them.  It’s not spurring their creative thinking skills in enough ways.

I’m clearly not the only one who has noticed this.  The National Science Foundation and oodles of engineering scholars agree.  And now that the engineering profession — as a group of individuals bound by common knowledge, education, and language — has come to acknowledge these shortcomings, it is time to address the problems head-on.

Fergus Whelan commented that I need to think outside this box....  Thanks to Frank Daly for the fabulous photo.

Not liking to be trapped inside the box….

Making such a change is difficult.  It’s messy and complex.  It requires thinking outside the vocabulary and methods that created the profession in the first place. In line with the old cliché: engineering has to starting thinking outside its own box.  Most people today agree: We need engineers to see and think in new ways.  And indeed, many teachers are:

  • working to prompt the needed type of thinking in engineering
  • testing new teaching methods
  • working to evaluate results

I am one of them.

I have two sets of skills that I am hoping can help in positive ways.  First, I’m an architect and seasoned educator.  Second, I’m an education researcher.  From this vantage point, I see that engineering (programs and pedagogies) can benefit from what architecture programs do.

The architecture profession, for instance, has always used hands-on teaching.  Architecture schools are full of students and full of creative energy.  Architecture and engineering aren’t so different, yet our ideas about what they “are” differ, and the way they are taught differs as well

“Engineering,” I insist, can benefit from design thinking, from techniques used in design education, and from sharing ideas with architects as well.  Upcoming blogs will explain how.


Below is a little gallery of recent research activities, including a short promo video (shot with my iPad in a single take) for our RoboSlam exhibit this weekend’s Dublin Maker event.

Fergus Whelan commented that I need to think outside this box....  Thanks to Frank Daly for the fabulous photo.

Fergus Whelan commented on this image that I need to think outside this box!  Many thanks to Frank Daly for the fabulous photo. My students, having sent his look many times before, certainly empathize with you!

In all corners of the globe today, companies are clamoring for skilled engineers. They want a larger pool of applicants who are creative, flexible thinkers prepared to address complex, emerging questions riddled with interrelated unknowns. Like industry, the sectors of healthcare, education, and government also have great need for well-rounded thinkers with strong engineering acumen.

Simply put: the world needs more people who can think across systems and see how things relate at multiple scales. We need people who can identify problems and create new solutions from the ground up. People who aren’t so closely bound to existing systems, ideas, and protocols that they can’t construct entirely new schemes for thinking and behaving.

Today, governmental organizations (like Science Foundation Ireland and the National Science Foundation in the USA) are working hard to address the shortfall in the number of engineers by generously funding education of, as well as research by, engineers and scientists. They seek better ways to teach and think about engineering and science.

The blogs I will be posting in the near future have to do with:

  • the way we think about and conceptualize engineering
  • how I think this needs to change
  • how architects and education researchers can help

Please note: I’m going to be explaining things that I’m trying to work out in my head and do this as if I’m speaking to a friend or relative who knows little about research. That means I may not be “100% right” in every explanation. But as you’ll see, that is a risk that must be taken for the sake of building knowledge. (It’s all part of this new “paradigm” for working and thinking that engineering needs to implement more widely… more on that to come!)

I do hope you’ll follow along on this research adventure, where I’m working to bring qualitative, social science research and design thinking into more facets of engineering education.  Yes, these are gutsy claims I’m making — particularly since I’m new to research and new to engineering.  Let’s see if I can live up to such promises….

Ted, Damon, and crew conducted a RoboSlam for 18 undergraduate engineering student form the University of Wisconsin last week.  I'll post more photos of the event soon, on our RoboSlam blog.

Ted, Damon, and crew conducted an abbreviated RoboSlam this part week for 18 undergraduate engineering student from the University of Wisconsin last week. They are students of former Fulbright, Bob O’Connell (far right). I’ll post more photos of the event soon, on our RoboSlam website.

Solstice in Dublin!

Solstice in Dublin!  It was my first solstice here and I enjoyed every minute of it! Interestingly, there’s indirect sunlight for even longer than 17 hours. The first rays appear before 4 AM and the last disappear after 10 PM.

Dublin is full of sunshine!  Temperatures are topping top out each day at about 65 degrees Fahrenheit and the sun has been staying up for 17 hours each day.  That makes for perfect weather for outdoor yoga.  On the day of the solstice, our yoga instructor, Peter, shared this provocation:  If there was no fear, what positive change would you make in your life?

I mulled the proposition.  I know better than anyone:  There’s good reason to fear what you may lose by chasing outrageous dreams.  But there’s also good reason to seek new knowledge and experience.  I hope someday my work will be a testament to trying hard to live life to the fullest.

This, the second week of my Marie Curie research fellowship, was full of adventures, errands, and learning.  My colleagues and I conducted a RoboSlam and a workshop on Problem-Based Learning at the start of the week.

I was honored to be included in a dinner and workshop with a guest from Portugal, José Manuel Nunes de Oliveira, who you may recall from an earlier blog.  Jose shared his work with the faculty of the DT07 electrical engineering program. This group of teachers is considering making the DT07 program more problem-based.

Jose's three essential elements of PBL.

Jose’s three essential elements of PBL.

Jose identified three elements he sees as essential to PBL (Problem- or Project-Based Learning):

  • Project drives learning
  • Group work
  • Reflection (including Self -and Peer-Assessment)

Jose described various aspects of assessment since this is a topic of concern to many of the teachers in the program.

I wish I had time to post details of the workshop, but I really need to get onto “real” work today.  Below, I’ve uploaded a photo journal of many highlights of the week. I hope they inspire you to find a least one new adventure today–however big or small.

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