Empathy in engineering education: Notes from an informal chat

During our first Big Engineering Education (EER) Meet Up on May 14th, we held seven informal breakout sessions that we called Coffee Chats. One was on empathy in engineering education.

The main leaders of this session were: Dr. Carlos Efrén Mora from the Canary Islands of Spain and Assistant Professor of Departamento de Ingeniería Agraria, Náutica, Civil y Marítima Área de Construcciones Navales at University de La Lugana, and Dr. Sally Male, the Chair in Engineering Education at The University of Western Australia. Dr. Inês Direto and I (Dr. Shannon Chance) assisted. At least 27 individuals participated in the chat.

Following the event, Carlos sent an email documenting the event, which I have used to generate this blog. I believe it’s worth sharing this information as it can be a resource for others to learn from and use. If you read through, you’ll discover:

  • Something special each participant had to say about themselves.
  • Each person’s main interest in Empathy and Engineering Education.
  • Q1: How, if at all, do you intentionally develop empathy in your students?
  • Q2: How, if at all, do you observe or measure empathy in your students?
  • Q3: How, if at all, do you research empathy in engineering education?

Dear all,
Thank you so much for your contributions in our coffee-break session about Empathy in Engineering Education. I felt that the session was a success, and that our sharing of ideas, experiences and research was very helpful, pleasant, and productive. The session was a bit experimental, and we didn’t know at the beginning if our idea about using forms, text chat, and videoconference simultaneously would work, but it seemed to work well.

As promised, the coffee-break session was mainly about networking and sharing, and we didn’t want to keep this info for ourselves. (…) I am sharing with you all ideas and comments that emerged during the session. (…) Again, thank you for participating. I hope that this info is useful to you. I am looking forward to seeing you again soon.

With best regards, Carlos Efrén Mora

Email from Carlos

Below is an anonymized record of our communications.

Say something special about yourself.

  • I am a Marine Engineer, but I love Arduino stuff 🙂
  • Aerospace Engineering Education Afficionista
  • I have the Chair in Engineering Education at The University of Western Australia
  • I love teaching
  • I research how to develop competencies in engineering (teamwork, leadership, etc.) and how to develop effective pedagogical practices to promote those competencies
  • I’m teaching practice
  • I teach and research engineering ethics, sustainability, social responsibility, leadership, mentoring, identity, …. 
  • I’m delighted with this new EER communication platform!
  • My research: Humble practice in engineering
  • Process Engineering educator 🙂
  • Director of First-Year Engineering at York University in Canada.
  • Hi! I’m in my final year at Monash University in Australia, completing my bachelors degrees in Electrical and Computer Systems Engineering and Biomedical Science. As a side note I’m quite interested in the differences in teaching between the biomedical science and engineering faculties.
  • Passionate about understanding students’ mind
  • I’m a Psychologist
  • Really interested to understand the way that academic systems evolve, or don’t
  • I am a PhD student researching on the experiences of international female engineering students in Australia
  • Mechatronic engineer doing engineering education focusing on sustainability in engineering
  • Former K-12 STEM teacher
  • I would like to do something good for this world and I try it every day in small things and in my PhD research
  • Web Designer and Programmer / Teacher / Social Development Researcher
  • I would love to be helping to make the world a better place, through my actions and through teaching
  • I teach Engineering and I really enjoy it

What is your main interest in Empathy and Engineering Education?

  • Empathy is for me the key to access students’ confident, and a basic resource to motivate them and making them more productive, conscious, and improve society. My interest is learning how to use empathy as a driving feeling to improve students’ and teachers’ motivation.
  • We are working toward an inclusive campus climate and empathy seems like a good way to start teaching empathy to engineering students and researching empathy in engineering.
  • Currently doing research on ethics education.
  • I really believe that students learn better when we show to them that we care about their learning.
  • I think learning is directly connected to feeling safe, included and engaged, empathy plays a big role on that
  • How to develop in all students
  • Advancing empathy in my students’ experiences in their education and beyond.
  • Links to ethical engineering practice, sustainable development
  • Carlos’ student facilitator data!
  • How we can instill empathy as a key trait of engineers (through Eng Edu)
  • Align practice with GenZ interests
  • Seeking ways to help students develop and apply empathy
  • I’m an undergraduate student doing my final year project in investigating empathy and accessible practices in engineering student teams at my university, and I’m really interested in learning what research and information exists currently around empathy in academic settings, especially student-student empathetic practices.
  • Empathy in the classroom for learning engineering skills, relationship between instructors and students.
  • Empathy is key to diversity, inclusion and equity in Engineering.
  • Changing practice
  • Using empathy to understand intersectional identities.
  • We had a workshop on this and it failed badly! like to see what are the alternatives to this and if it can be used for sustainability.
  • Leading pre-college engineering education and interested in incorporating empathy as part of our K-12 engineering programs, which are led by a team of undergrad/grad students.
  • I think empathy can connect and if you are connected you can do great things.
  • Improve my Self About Empathy in Education because I am a teacher.
  • I work with Engineering students on their careers and employability skills and I’m interested to understand more about current thinking on this area.
  • For helping future engineers to understand the perspectives of stakeholders, to be more effective engineers.
  • I am an engineering teacher and I think that empathy is very important to connect with students.
  • I really believe that without empathy you cannot succeed in education or in the professional practice of engineering. And most importantly, it cannot be enjoyed.
Empathy, Compassion, Friendship

Q1: How, if at all, do you intentionally develop empathy in your students?

  • Most often, individual interactions. But also organized programs of study abroad and community engagement projects.
  • I try to actively look for opportunities in one-on-one interactions if it is needed but also I try to lead by example by being empathic myself.
  • Team-based learning; following a systematic framework to create diverse teams with different cognitive abilities and demographic backgrounds.
  • Not specifically empathy, but we talk about professional attitudes, human centered design; internationally talk about respectful listening.
  • Showing students case studies of engineering projects that failed because the engineers failed to engage with and empathize with people.  In design projects, include rubric criteria for plans of community involvement/consultation/engagement.  We are exploring adding community service learning so that students can engage with people and practice empathy.
  • I constantly emphasize (since the first day of class) how intelligent and capable they are. It is nothing based in theory. I try to make them to trust me and believe that I am there for them.
  • Encouraging students to think about what they are creating and how it will be used by people. How it will impact those people. Emphasizing it is not as an end in itself.
  • Stanford Design Thinking https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FzFk3E5nxM
  • Not explicitly developed but seen as an enabler of good interaction.
  • Engage my undergrad/grad student team in co-designing our pre-college engineering education curriculum based on their area of study and interest in engineering. This empowers them and reinforces that their knowledge and experience are valued and important in helping to create the next generation of engineers.
  • Practicing empathy myself and maybe a little by introducing a collaborative teaching experience in the lab.
  • We use experiential learning through Humanitarian Engineering and inclusive design.
  • Overseas immersion activities, trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
  • They have to develop a project proposed by another group, but they cannot start until they know and can perfectly explain the wishes and needs of their “client”.
  • (1) try to be empathetic with students; (2) try to encourage students to view problems from the different perspectives of their stakeholders, and gain insight to the challenges of stakeholders.

In our audio discussion, we talked about learning activities we have led to help students develop empathy. Comments entered in the chat box during this discussion are included below.

  • Service learning and study abroad have been activities I have lad that were most effective.
  • TBL (team-based learning)
  • I try to when I am supervising project groups. Some students just have not ever been exposed.
  • I constantly emphasize (since the first day of class) how intelligent and capable they are. It is nothing based in theory. I try to make them to trust me and believe that I am there for them.
  • We have our students answer 2-3 one page long prompts in a learning journal each week.  We vary the prompts across all domains of their development, however, many of the prompts drive at their empathy for the various stakeholders in their work.
  • Respectful listening to community voices; Yanna Lambrinidou / Marc Edwards engineering ethics course.
  • Gift-giving experience using design thinking by Institute of Design at Stanford.
  • Encouraging students to think about how their developed products would be used by the end user, especially usability for people with disabilities.
  • [Asked to another participant] Can you expand on what that is? Sounds really nice. [Answer] Info on Gift-giving experience using design thinking by Institute of Design at Stanford is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-FzFk3E5nxM
  • As empathy underpins trust, in group projects I engage the students in reflective writing and then formative peer assessment (i.e. no marks) which has a focus on making their collaboration more effective which gives them a shared goal
  • We have an explicit rule for all interactions. It is called the rule of 1/x.  Where x=the number of people in the interaction.  eg. if there are 5 student engineers on a team, each person is responsible to participate at the level of 1/5th.  This is for working products, conversation participation etc.  It ends up creating a self-awareness whereby people must be cognizant of their own contribution and those of others.
  • Critical educators create teams underpinned by diverse cognitive skills and cultural intelligence backgrounds.
  • I agree that discussing differences in class helps them understand that not everyone thinks as they do.
  • I see different types developments: active actions, and reflective actions
  • There’s a Special issue on ” “COVID-2019 Impacts on Education Systems and Future of Higher Education”.  Could you please help to publicise more widely within your education networks? I also invite you to submit your work related to this topic. See below link for more details https://www.mdpi.com/journal/education/special_issues/Future_of_Higher_Education
  • I also think helping them learn how to do reflections is key in this space.
  • Engage my undergrad/grad student team in co-designing our pre-college engineering education curriculum based on their area of study and interest in engineering. This empowers them and reinforces that their knowledge and experience are valued and important in helping to create the next generation of engineers.

Q2: How, if at all, do you observe or measure empathy in your students?

  • N/A for me, up to now
  • Other than by looking and instinct no I don’t measure
  • Surveys
  • There are reflective essays; but not “measure”
  • I observe, but unfortunately I do not measure, because I have never research this topic.
  • N/A
  • Measuring it by to see if they have listened to their partner (the one they interview to gift). They need to develop the best gift according to their partner’s needs.
  • Through reflective writing but not directly measured, inferred through effective reflection on relationship with colleagues.
  • Informal observations via weekly undergrad/grad student team meeting and post-activity discussions, as part of our pre-college engineering program.
  • I just observe.
  • Observe, but not measure. We see it in the outcomes of student assignments and work, particularly in project-based assessment designing solutions for clients.
  • I they are able to adapt their solutions to the “other”
  • I agree with what a lot of participants mentioned about observing but not measuring. I like seeing this unfold organically. On a tangential note, it has been interesting to see students empathise with academics grappling with online teaching in times like this.
  • Observe through their approach to other students; in how they approach their design projects, if they demonstrate understanding of perspectives, in the questions that they ask.

Comments entered into the Chat about Question 2: How, if at all, do you observe or measure empathy in your students?

  • I observe, but I do not measure 😦
  • I look at interactions and the way they express themselves about and towards others
  • They will definitely recognise this by means of SET (student evaluation of teachers)
  • This is really interesting; I consider empathy to be the highest point of respect between students and instructors. I thankfully have been positively rewarded by my students when I show that I care.
  • In architecture we have Student Performance Criteria for Human Behavior, for instance.
  • I think a smile from students is one of the best indicators! 🙂
  • No rubrics to measure.  Maybe something to research.  But I really want to develop empathy to students.
  • I don’t think we explicitly measure it, but it would depend on how you define empathy, or what behaviours you characterise it as.
  • Sometime I see the opposite (resistance among senior students to the respectful listening exercise).
  • I think it is in how they address their design problems, demonstrated understanding of stakeholder perspective in their projects.
  • I agree with this (…), it is inferred from actions but this confuses how you define empathy.
  • Informal observations via weekly student team meeting, post-activity discussions.
  • From a practitioner/teaching perspective, I measure it by levels of engagement and commitment to the course, when they move from grades to caring about the topics.
  • Measuring it by to see if they have listened to their partner (the one they interview to gift). They need to develop the best gift.
  • My project is on student-student interactions, but we’re planning on measuring empathetic thinking by looking at inclusive and accessible practices of students within student teams and other elements such a retention rate and application rate.
  • I agree with (…). I think we look at empathy in how they approach problems and engage with communities.
  • This was the one I was thinking of, for the IR: https://fetzer.org/sites/default/files/images/stories/pdf/selfmeasures/EMPATHY-InterpersonalReactivityIndex.pdf

Q3: How, if at all, do you research empathy in engineering education?

  • N/A for me, up to now
  • Not yet, but is definitely a project I am interested in.
  • Linking cultural intelligence to demographic factors, and then the results to cross-cultural interactions including empathetic behaviours in teams.
  • Research somewhat related to empathy = care, sustainability, ethics, societal context, listening to the community,…
  • As far as I experienced engineering is not a field you can go through alone easily, teams and groups as well as collaborations are essential and with all of this, of course empathy.
  • Empathy can let you feel what other people feels and helps you drive all the emotion in one direction for a bigger common goal.
  • We are considering using the Empathy Quotient (https://psychology-tools.com/test/empathy-quotient) to measure empathy in students.  This tool was originally developed by researchers working on Austism.
  • I do not  😦
  • N/A
  • Not yet.
  • I do not, for now
  • I research it tangentially – empathy is related to my research and highly linked.
  • No, I don´t rerearch empathy but I try to apply it and increase it.
  • I haven’t read much on empathy from a research perspective but am familiar with empathy as part of the design process.
  • Still thinking about this…..the research needs to translate into engineering practice that better meets the needs of our global community.

Entered into the Chat about Q3, How, if at all, are you researching the topic?

  • Not yet. But as we are looking at creating a more emphatic climate we will need to see if we are successful.
  • Empathy is part of the research, but we are starting a great group to do research on emotions in engineering education. For me individually I’m interested in understanding how instructor provide and receive emotional support.
  • I’m sending out a survey to all of the engineering students (including masters and PhD students) to gauge their attitudes towards the accessibility of student teams, and to see how those in the teams feel about the culture – so not a part of how empathy is being taught from a top-down perspective, but still looking at how empathy in general is engendered in an engineering context.
  • I’ve supervised research on trust in technology sharing in SMEs and this was shown to be very dependent upon empathy, interpersonal relationships and largely outside any management of the commercial relationship
  • @(…), that’s a very interesting idea. It would be good to understand if engineers even value empathy…
  • @(…) I am interested to see if they do! I have a feeling most engineering students won’t necessarily think of it in these terms’
  • Students tell me they need a mix of ways teams are composed [response from another participant] I think there are times for this but I’m almost exclusively working with students close to graduation in high stakes projects. [reply back] Yes, the year level matters a whole lot. [from a third person] How do you decide when to offer self-selection/ not?
  • I’ve been exploring the role of ethnicity in cross-cultural team activities and found interesting results; BME students significantly showed higher motivational ‘cultural intelligence’ as compared to Asian and White students that may suggest they may be more empathetic.
  • We do blended self-select: so min requirements such as at least 2 of each gender and two non-Dutch speakers and then self-select based on topic.
  • Students sometimes feel pressure from their friends and sometimes they want wider exposure. Because their friends want to group together every time and they don’t get the diversity they want. This is particularly acute for students form minority groups who don’t feel comfortable asking majority students to be in their teams. It takes action from teachers to help overcome that. [Agreement from 3 others, including] absolutely and this is so important [and] That’s why we have a hidden algorithm.
  •  In the UK we really need more women students to allow us to form diverse groups.
  • As someone who is still doing group projects, I usually prefer being allocated into a group – as someone who is in the minority of engineering students, I feel very weird trying to sort out my own group.
  • We are trying to find a space in the curriculum to reflect on the different teams that they have been a part of.  Give students an opportunity to think about self-selected vs assigned teams.  What were the challenges and how did they overcome them?

In the chat box, we also discussed how we see the teaching of empathy in engineering education

  • Critical
  • Succesful
  • Essential for effective engagement.
  • Missing
  • Undervalued
  • The way to support future global working environment
  • Fundamental if we want our students to really help to make the world a better place
  • Not as high as in architectural education.
  • It’s a need.
  • Important for fostering collaboration and self-reflection.

What is empathy in engineering education?

  • An understanding of other people
  • Empathy in Engineering Education is The Next New Boundary to Push
  • Empathy in Engineering Education is… finding better solutions
  • The root for care
  • Culturally hidden
  • Inclusivity
  • It Is a bridge to new knowledge and innovation
  • KEY for a more diverse and inclusive engineering culture = diverse and inclusive engineering solutions [another participant agreed] That’s certainly been my experience as an electrical engineering student…
  • Being involved in academic development I agree that the discipline differences are also shown by staff – this leads to the question of how do staff who find empathy difficult support students, particularly those from minority groups?
  • Some data …There is one unit in all Australian electrical engineering programs which directly addresses empathy as a learning outcome. [Asked by another] which unit? [And] Where about is the program? [Answer] It is more content than a learning outcome. https://www.deakin.edu.au/courses-search/unit.php?unit=SEJ101 and empathy for bais.
  • I think that empathy opens up the ability to understand different perspectives – which opens up different ways of framing problems and solving problems.
  • In the UK the National Student Survey asks if the lecturer makes the subject interesting, engineering scores 5% below the all subject average which may say something about staff empathy?

In the Chat at the wrap-up

  • Thank you for this session.  I learned a lot.
  • Many thanks! Really interesting discussion 🙂
  • Thank you, a very interactive session!
  • Thank you all! very interesting.
  • Thank you! Was great to take part and see you all again!
  • tnx 🙂

Vibrant networks producing INGENious results!

Most days, I find myself communicating with colleagues from afar on various projects, proposals, and ideas. On a typical day, I hear from Dr. Inês Direito in London (UK), Dr. Lelanie Smith in Pretoria (South Africa) and Dr. Carlos Efrén Mora Luis in Tenerife (Spain). We have many overlapping interests–one being how to understand student motivations and emotions and how to use this understanding to help students tackle and persist through challenges. I often hear from our co-author Dr. Bill Williams, from outside Lisbon (Portugal) as well.

A past meeting of minds among Inês (center), Lelanie (right), and me. These days we can only meet online.

In addition to engineering motivations, we are also all interested in sustainability — environmental, economic and social. So over the past few weeks, WhatsApp and Signal chats have been rich and frequent.

Today alone, Lelanie, Inês, and I discussed research plans. Inês, Bill, and I submitted a conference paper on Brexit (with Inês in the lead and comments from Bill and me). Inês and I refined a journal manuscript on engineering ethics (with me in the lead and verbal input from Inês — she will edit my current version in the morning).

Down in the Spanish Canaries, Carlos has been fighting sand storms, as dust from the Sahara Dessert enveloped the islands. The weekend’s sandstorms were one of a number of challenges he’s faced recently, but he’s never one to give up.

Carlos (Dr. Carlos Mora) speaking at the launch of the INGENIA project. Hundreds of students attended the event, which featured speakers from around the world.

Carlos and I didn’t win the grant we applied for this past September, despite having put months into the proposal. We’ve picked ourselves up, brushed off the disappointment, and developed a plan to perfect and resubmit. I know all too well that resubmitting makes a world of difference! It’s the best way to win funding. Yesterday, I was rallying our troops, gathering support for a new round of work. I am confident that eventually we will succeed.

But we haven’t been sitting around waiting for success to come.

In December, Carlos submitted an additional grant proposal, this one to the Cabildo of Tenerife, Spain, for €56,000. He received funding for the project titled “INGENIA.” Carlos explained to me that the word “Ingenia” comes from “Ingenio,” which is “Ingenuity” in English. So the project is fostering “Ingenuity” to support sustainability education.

I’m honored that (as a result of me coaching him on how to write grant proposals) he included me as a co-PI.

On the 31st of January, Carlos and his colleagues in Tenerife launched his extremely well-designed INGENIA project. It was a true thrill when over 300 people attended his launch that Friday!

Carlos has summarized in English that “INGENIA wants to show that students can find sustainable solutions to real life problems linked to SDGs in Tenerife.” Students will build their own research teams and find a supervisor who will help manage the financial resources for their project.” In other words, the students “will have to find relevant problems and then propose solutions. The final part of the process is selling their solutions to companies and administrative public offices.”

Students will engineer their solutions and compete for funding to realize their projects. Below, I’ve included information that Carlos wrote to described the project, which is being conducted in Spanish. I can understand a bit by reading the Spanish materials he produced, but he was kind enough to translate for me/us!

INGENIA project

The Spanish public universities agreed recently contributing to the 2030 Agenda by building and transferring knowledge and skills to society about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Universities can contribute with teaching, learning, and student-participation methods to transfer not just the skills, but the motivation needed to face the SDGs. Like other Spanish higher education institutions, University of La Laguna (ULL) endorsed the United Nations (UN) SDGs initiative, and has a detailed understanding of the importance of its local problems linked to the environmental, social, and economical sustainability of the Canary Islands.

INGENIA is a project coordinated by ULL that is focused on the needs of the local society in the Canaries that supports building knowledge and skills on the participating students. INGENIA uses Project-oriented Problem Based Learning (PoPBL) learning strategies to motivate the students to find and propose solutions to real problems linked to the SDGs around their own environment.

Objectives

  • Train university and high school academic staff in using active learning strategies to impulse SDGs.
  • Educate postgraduate students, and academic staff, in facilitating techniques and strategies to guiding students in complex projects linked to SDGs.
  • Develop real student projects with a high potential for positive impact in the Canarian society.

Implementation

INGENIA will be implemented in three stages:

  • Informative and training actions. Informative actions will include a conference to be held at ULL in its theatre showing how students can change the world. Training actions will include workshops with specialists in Engineering Education focused on PBL and the evaluation of the impact of student projects.
    Goal: Get teachers motivated to help students in writing their proposals. Each of these teachers will also serve as guarantors for a team of students, and guarantors will assume the financial responsibility of the projects they back.  
  • Training of facilitators. A group of postgraduate students will receive specific training for PBL, Motivation, Conflict Management, and Project Management. Facilitators will collaborate with guarantors in guiding the student teams.
    Goal: Having at least one facilitator for each wining proposal.
  • Project development: INGENIA will include a call for proposals. Student teams must justify the relevance of the problem and the feasibility of their solutions. Winning teams will receive funding for their projects, and must execute their projects within two months. At the end of this period, each team will write a report to identify the impact of their solutions. Students will participate in a public exhibition in October 2020, and will also have the opportunity to show their solutions to companies and public institutions with the aim of getting additional funding to continue their projects.

The launch was a huge success and reached the press. Noticias Cananias and Eldiario both ran stories.

https://www.noticanarias.com/tenerife-la-universidad-de-la-laguna-inaugura-el-proyecto-ingenia-con-250-asistentes/

https://www.eldiario.es/canariasahora/nekuni/campus/ULL-promueve-emprendimiento-desarrollo-sostenible_0_990751736.html

Carlos explained that the 31st was a day full of feeling. One of the speakers told such a moving story that the audience shed tears of emotion. Specifically, two students described their experiences; the second of these is working with ‘invisible’ people, meaning people who appear in social statistics, but have no work, no home, and thus no address. Carlos said she did an excellent job transmitting her feelings. She said, for instance, “that one day, she cooked rice for homeless people, but she was so busy that she forgot to turn off the cooking plate.” The rice was damaged, but she salvaged and packed up as much rice us she could, and went to give it to people in the street in Tenerife. She gave a portion to one man, and stayed looking at him. As the man was eating that rice, he stopped, looked at her eyes, and said what a lovely smile she had.

When she finished her narrative at the launch, one retired professor raised his hand to say something, but when he tried to start broken into tears. He cited numbers — the number of people invisible to all of us — and then he said that he had lived this experience along with her, and that she had touched his heart. The student walked down from the stage and gave the professor a big embrace. All the assistants, students, and teachers in the audience started to applaud.

It is this sort of change Carlos hopes to inspire among more students, and this is the sort of communication I received from Carlos daily.

After the student’s talk, many people were in tears, including Carlos. But he couldn’t stop to weep: he was next up on the stage.

Carlos needed to explain details of the program and how it will run. He had to explain the schedule and what will be expected of the various people working together in teams — including the student team members as well as the post-graduate and faculty member (e.g., professors) advising each team.

Carlos said the event was so motivating, inspiring them all to go out and find problems to solve. He received oodles of questions from students and academics wanting to participate. He said “Yes, I still can’t believe it, but something positive happened today!”

I have included images that are copyright of the photographer, Emeterio Suárez Guerra, and used with permission of Carlos.

Brand new Bachelors in BIM launched today at TU Dublin

It’s been a busy and exciting week here in Dublin. Monday at noon I was appointed as Programme Chair for the new BSc (Hon) in BIM (Digital Construction) at TU Dublin. We launched the programme at lunchtime today, Friday, just four days later. I had a lot of studying up to do to get up to speed to host the induction/orientation.

This course is for people who have a three-year Bachelors degree (called level 7 in Ireland–this is the standard Bachelors in Europe). They will have studied Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) for their first degree and want to learn about Building Information Modelling and upgrade to a four-year Honours level Bachelors (called level 8 in Ireland, and more like the Bachelors degrees offered in the USA). In the future, we will also accept people who have level 6 (apprentice) degrees and Recognition for Prior Learning (RPL).

This link provides info on Programme Outcomes, Awards & Graduate Attributes, for example. Take a look at the amazing resources and software packages available for students to use and learn. The program includes Work Place Learning (here’s the handbook for it) as well as a research Dissertation (handbook) supported by a Research Methods module that I’ll be teaching alongside Debbie Brennan.

So, today we held induction and welcomed 24 students into our first cohort!

This time next year, successful students will walk away with a BSc (Hons) and a host of new knowledge and skills related to digital construction.

My colleagues — Dr. Avril Behan, Mr. Kevin Furlong, Dr. Barry Mcauley, Ms. Deborah Brennan and others — were involved in designing this programme, and they even got a grant (Springboard+) to cover much of the cost for the 2020 cohort. They did all this work while I was away, working in London. What a truly lovely programme they have built!

It’s really needed here in Ireland — it’s great for the people taking the course who will gain valuable new skills — and it’s great for the Irish construction industry which desperately needs people skilled in BIM. I find this to be an extremely worthwhile project and I’m delighted to be part of it and to work with such a great team.

Here’s a press release from TU Dublin:

Technological University Dublin is delighted to announce the commencement of its level 8 BSc (Hons) in BIM (Digital Construction), designed and delivered by the same team who created TU Dublin’s award-winning MSc in aBIMM suite (ICE Postgraduate Course of the Year 2019). This programme is designed to meet the Lean Construction, BIM and digital transformation upskilling needs of holders of level 6 qualifications (including craft apprenticeship) plus industry experience, and of level 7 (ordinary degree) award holders in construction-related areas.  Focussing on discipline-specific BIM modelling (architecture, construction, MEP engineering & structural engineering) and multidisciplinary co-ordination, underpinned by a Lean Construction philosophy, this programme will equip graduates with the skills necessary to take up roles as BIM Modellers, Technicians, and Coordinators with consultants, contractors, clients, and public sector bodies.  The programme is delivered in blended format with attendance required on the Bolton Street Campus for one afternoon per week (typically Fridays from 12:30) from late January to late May with additional online delivery (one  evening per week – evening tbc and depending on discipline). From September to December the programme is delivered fully online with a number of support face-to-face workshops. 

The course handbook is available at: 

https://sites.google.com/a/dit.ie/handbook-of-the-bsc-hons-in-bim-at-tu-dublin-2020/ 

TU Dublin secured 90% of the funding for places in this year’s cohort from the Irish Higher Education Authority’s Springboard+ programme. Thus, the cost to selected participants in 2020 is only €220.

The application deadline for this year has passed (it was was Monday January 13th 2020 for commencement at end of January). This first cohort will commence their coursework in January 2020 and walk away with diplomas in a highly marketable field of expertise (BIM and digital construction) in February 2020.

If you would like more info on the programme, please register your interest by emailing the School of Multidisciplinary Technologies <smdt.adm@tudublin.ie>. Our school administrator can then send additional info as we prepare for upcoming cohorts. 

Focus on Student Development

Our new special focus journal is out!

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

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

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

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

Here’s the introductory statement:

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

Jonte Bernhard Anna-Karin Carstensen Jacob Davidsen Thomas Ryberg

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

Desen S. Ozkan Lisa D. Mcnair Diana Bairaktarova

Here’s an official overview of the issue:

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

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

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

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

Fostering Inclusivity in Engineering Education in the South African Context

img_5642-1I spent the first week of July in South Africa, facilitating a two-day Master Class on “Fostering Inclusivity in Engineering Education in the South African Context” and then attending the Research in Engineering Education Symposium, REES 2019, which adopted the theme “Making Connections.” In this blog, I’ll tell you about the workshop and show you photos from the workshop and our travels to Cape Town, where my closest collegue, Inês, and I had a day to explore before heading out to the workshop location.

Fostering inclusivity in engineering education means creating learning environments that are welcoming to everyone, and where all members have equitable access to learning. We asked: How do we support the creation of inclusive environments for all engineering education stakeholders?

img_5752Our interactive Inclusivity workshop focused on supporting engineering educators wanting either to develop inclusive learning and teaching environments or to research the effectiveness of their interventions.

The workshop was facilitated by Shanali Govender from the University of Cape Town (UCT) alongside Inês Direito and myself from University College London (UCL). In addition, John Mitchell (from UCL) and Brandon Collier-Mills (from UTC) provided panel presentations and Mohohlo Tsoeu (UTC) was part of our planning sessions.

This was the eighth and last of a series of EEESCEP workshops. This one was held at Spier Wine Farm, Stellenbosch–a glorious place to visit even during South Africa’s winter!

img_5813-2Twenty-five engineering teachers from all over South Africa attended the workshop and the discussions were truly insightful.

As nervous as I had been leading up to the event–having visited South Africa previously to both study the history of Apartheid in the built environment and grow my understanding of the country’s tumultuous past–this workshop turned out amazingly well.

Participants came in with an endearing openness and desire to make engineering education more welcoming for all. They welcomed the facilitators warmly and openly as well. We all benefited from hearing new perspectives and giving serious thought to things we might do to improve the situation in engineering education, where white male norms predominate.

img_5831-1Drawing on participants’ own experiences with teaching and conducting research in engineering education, we encouraged participants to engage with contemporary and global issues related to inclusivity within engineering education and consider emerging research. Participants reflected upon their own practices and identified inclusivity aims and goals.

Discussions helped all of us identify barriers to inclusivity and develop ways to remove barriers in practice. A participant described the event this way:

The facilitators were excellent in their delivery of the doctrine of inclusivity to engender seeds for policy formulation, innovation, development and practice of engineering education in an ever-changing world.

It is worthy of note that the workshop has begun to provoke a silent revolution in teaching, learning, and research that will seek to enhance economic, social, scientific, infrastructural and holistic development of South Africa, and the world at large in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The discussion on Inclusivity seeped over into the REES activities, as many of the participants, facilitators, and presenters from the EEESCEP workshop continued on, from the workshop to REES, which started the day after our workshop ended. Being part of both events helped me build stronger ties to the engineering teachers in South Africa and I eagerly await more opportunities to work with them on projects.

Sightseeing in Cape Town

Inclusivity Master Class

Directors of TU Dublin’s MSc in Transport + Mobility Visit UCL to Compare Notes

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When my colleagues at Technological University Dublin announced to me they were launching a new Master’s degree in Transport and Mobility (student handbook available here), I immediately invited them over to London to meet my supervisor, Professor Nick Tyler, who is a leading expert in transportation design, particularly where accessibility and mobility are concerned. He advises cities worldwide about their transportation systems, and in the Queen’s 2011 New Year’s Honours ceremony, Nick was appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) for Services to Technology. That followed an earlier appointment to OBE. As an American, I wasn’t quite sure what all this meant, but Wikipedia provided me a handy primer:

The five classes of appointment to the Order are, in descending order of precedence:

  • Knight Grand Cross or Dame Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE)
  • Knight Commander or Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (KBE or DBE)
  • Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE)
  • Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE)
  • Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) –Quoted from Wikipedia,

Overall, I wanted my Dublin colleagues to learn about how Nick teaches his Master’s level module on their MSc topic, to see the research center he has built that is named PAMELA, and to encounter Nick’s epic personality and his can-do, ger-her-done spirit.

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Shannon Chance hosting TU Dublin’s Sinead Flavin, Roisin Murray, Lorraine D Arcy, and David O Connor

 

Four colleagues from TU Dublin took me up on the offer and traveled over to University College London this past Monday to meet with Nick and other world-leading researchers and experts in transportation, accessibility, and spatial planning.

The aim of the visit was for TU Dublin staff to get advice on starting their new degree program and to identify potential projects and research where they could collaborate in the future. The delegation from TU Dublin included:

David and Lorraine are co-chairs of the new MSc in Transport and Mobility.

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Meeting at the Bartlett with leaders of the Space Syntax group

All members of the visiting group are all involved with a new multidisciplinary part-time MSc in Transport and Mobility at TU Dublin which has a focus on sustainable transport. The first students started this January. All members of the group are Early Stage Researchers, most less than 6 years past earning their doctorates, despite having years of consultancy and teaching experience behind them.

The TU crew touched down at London Heathrow a little late due to extreme winds, but it was, nevertheless, an action-packed day!

10:30

Meeting at the Bartlett School of Architecture with Professor Laura Vaughan who is Director of the Space Syntax Laboratory, and her research associates Professor Sophia PsarraDr. Ashley DhananiDr. Kayvan Karimi, and Ph.D.candidate Kimon Krenz.

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Meeting with experts from Civil, Environmental, and Geomatic Engineering at UCL

12:00

 

Meeting with transportation experts from UCL’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Geotechnical Engineering (CEGE) at the Chadwick Building to discuss Transport and Mobility. Attending from UCL were: Professor Emeritus Roger Mackett, Dr. Tom Cohen, Dr. Adriana Ortegon, and Visiting Professor Shannon Chance. Professor Mackett is an expert in how transportation affects public health–a topic near an dear to my heart and one I’ve published about.

13:20

Head up to Tuffnell Park to visit the PAMELA Lab.

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Meeting with Nick Tyler at the PAMELA lab

14:00

 

Start of Nick’s MSc class in Transportation Design “T19 Accessible Design”. Meet with Professor Tyler to learn about his teaching and research, which has been called “The London Lab With A Fake Tube Train” by Londonist magazine.

There were a number of additional experts my TU Dublin colleagues would like to have met with so, hopefully, they will return again soon.

 

Theories on How Students Learn

UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education is offering a brand new Masters of Science (MSc degree) in Education and Engineering. We have six students enrolled in the first cohort, and my colleague, Dr. Abel Nyamapfene, asked me to provide the second lecture for the winter term, on theories related to learning and teaching in higher education.

Fortunately, I had two modules on this topic as part of my taught Ph.D. coursework, and it’s one of my very favorite subjects. It’s also the topic of a new special focus issue I’m organizing for IEEE Transactions on Education, and this field of research also provides the framework for a new study I’m starting to investigate differences in the ways architecture and civil engineering students perceive the world.

Giving this two-hour lecture also helped support the goals of my current Marie Curie Individual Fellowship, titled “Designing Engineers: Harnessing the Power of Design Projects to Spur Cognitive and Epistemological Development of STEM Students.” An overarching objective of my work is to develop and promote better ways to teach and support diverse STEM students, including women and minority students.

I had a great audience at the MSC lecture!

Even though the student group is small–and two of the six students attend via the Internet, meaning I could hear but not see them–we had a very active discussion. It really helped that a number of my colleagues attended as well. In addition to me, five other staff members from UCL were present, including Jay Derrick, Dr. Abel Nyamapfene, and Dr. Fiona Truscott. In fact, Dr. Inês Direito, my closest colleague, contributed photos of the event:

Before the class meeting, I provided the following synopsis to Able, which he distributed to all everyone involved in the class.

Session speaker:  Prof Shannon Chance

(UCL Faculty of Engineering Science)

As college students take their courses, they’ll gain much beyond the academic benefit. Through their courses, and through the guidance of instructors like you, students can develop attitudes and skills that help them gain confidence, work well with others, and better understand themselves and the world around them. (Strang, 2015)

Outline:

Theories on student development are well known among student affairs professionals who provide extra-curricular and auxiliary support to students, yet these theories are less frequently known or applied by academic staff (Evans, et al., 2009). Understanding these theories may help engineering educators communicate clearly and effectively with students—helping students develop incrementally, providing effective scaffolding for student learning, and providing an appropriate balance of challenge and support. This session provides an introduction to seminal (groundbreaking) theories. It will be presented from an American perspective, as most theories presented in this session originated in the USA.

Studying at the university has been found to promote development including (Strang, 2015):

  1. Soft, professional, generic or transferable skills
  2. Self-knowledge
  3. Values and ethical standards (see identity theories)

A group of theories bridging these topics has deals with epistemological development (or epistemic cognition). Epistemology is the study of how an individual conceptualizes knowledge, where knowledge comes from, and how it originates. Students with sophisticated epistemic cognition consider multiple points of view; they make decisions in context and recognize their own ability to create new solutions and generate new knowledge. Research shows students who can restructure their thinking to do this get more out of their higher education and are much better prepared for their careers than those who do not (Perry, 1970). Such skills are necessary for effective performance in STEM, yet the typical engineering student progresses fewer than two positions along Perry’s nine-position scheme in college (Pavelich & Moore, 1996).

At the end of this introductory session, participants will be able to:

  • Identify several different established theories about how students learn
  • Discuss ideas underpinning at least two of the learning theories discussed
  • Identify some research methods used to construct Perry’s theory
  • Critically analyze one learning theory for its relevance in their teaching practice 

Pre-session tasks:

Please print this hand-out and read this short blog entry prior to our class session:

Additional readings:

The session will provide a brief introduction to each of the following theories, and students are encouraged to follow up in learning about specific theories that interest them from the list below, which is organized in the same sequence as presented during the session. You might want to use a print out of this sheet to help you keep notes during the session.

Excellent overview of theories

  • Evans, N. J., Forney, D. S., Guido, F. M., Patton, L. D., & Renn, K. A. (2009). Student development in college: Theory, research, and practice. John Wiley & Sons.

Balance of challenge and support

  • Sanford, N. (1962). The American college. New York, NY: Wiley.

Student involvement

  • Astin, A. W. (1999, September/October). Student involvement: A developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Development, 40(5).

Student persistence

  • Tinto, V. (1987). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes and cures of student attrition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Seminal theory of epistemological development

  • Perry, W. (1970). Forms of ethical and intellectual development in the college years: A scheme. (1st). San Francisco: Wiley.

Subsequent theories of epistemological development

  • Belenky, M. F., Clinchy, B. M., Goldberger, N. R., & Tarule, J. M. (1986). Women’s ways of knowing: The development of self, voice, and mind. New York: Basic Books.
  • Baxter Magolda, M. B. (1992). Knowing and reasoning in college: Gender-related patterns in students’ intellectual development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • King, P. M., & Kitchener, K. S. (1994). Developing reflective judgment: Understanding and promoting intellectual growth and critical thinking in adolescents and adults. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Hofer, B. K. & Pintrich, P. R. (2002). Personal epistemology: The psychology of beliefs about knowledge and knowing. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Kuhn, D., Cheney, R., & Weinstock, M. (2000). The development of epistemological understanding. Cognitive Development, 15(3), 309-328.
  • Schommer-Aikins, M. (2004). Explaining the epistemological belief system: Introducing the embedded systemic model and coordinated research approach. Educational Psychologist39(1), 19-29.

Seminal theory of identity development

  • Chickering, A. W. (1969). Education and Identity. Jossey-Bass.
  • Chickering, A. W., & Reisser, L. (1993). Education and Identity. The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Professional identity

  • Loui, M. C. (2005). Ethics and the development of professional identities of engineering students. Journal of Engineering Education94(4), 383-390.

Gender identity

  • Bilodeau, B. L., & Renn, K. A. (2005). Analysis of LGBT identity development models and implications for practice. New directions for student services2005(111), 25-39.

Spiritual identity

  • Parks, S. D. (2011). Big questions, worthy dreams: Mentoring emerging adults in their search for meaning, purpose, and faith. John Wiley & Sons.

Racial or ethnic identity

  • Cross, W. E. (1978). The Thomas and Cross models of psychological nigrescence: A review. Journal of Black Psychology5(1), 13-31.
  • Phinney, J. S. (1993). A three-stage model of ethnic identity development in adolescence. Ethnic identity: Formation and transmission among Hispanics and other minorities61, 79.
  • Helms, J. E. (1997). Toward a model of White racial identity development. College student development and academic life: Psychological, intellectual, social and moral issues, 49-66.

Typology theories

  • Kolb, D. A. (2014). Experiential learning: Experience as the source of learning and development. FT Press.
  • Kolb, D. A. (1976). Learning style inventory technical manual. Boston, MA: McBer.
  • Myers, I. B. (1962). The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator: Manual.
  • Strange, C. C., & Banning, J. H. (2001). Educating by Design: Creating Campus Learning Environments That Work. The Jossey-Bass Higher and Adult Education Series. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Tools for Design Educators

I also introduced the students to Crismond and Adams extremely helpful tool for helping teach design-related aspects of engineering and other subjects:

  • Crismond, D. P. & Adams. R. S. (2012). The informed design teaching and learning matrix. Journal of Engineering Education 101(4), 738-797. (This is Table 1, from pages 748-749 of the article.)

Here’s a copy of the matrix that I typed into the computer when I first read their paper. It may be of use to you.

And here are some of the slides I presented to Abel’s class:

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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.

Shannon teaching with Nataschu saturated

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!