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.


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


INGENIA will be implemented in three stages:

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

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

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.

EER deadlines for ethics journal and SEFI

I’m posting a cheerful reminder to those interested in engineering education research that important deadlines are coming up for manuscripts on ethics and SEFI conference papers. These are great activities to get involved with!

Ethics journal

The first is for the AJEE special focus issue on ethics in engineering education and practice (due March 1). See the call for papers at

SEFI 2020 conference

I downloaded this info on SEFI deadlines from regarding Research Papers since this info only shows up after you’ve logged in, meaning that you might want to see it before setting up your profile. Most abstracts/proposals are due March 2. Other types of submissions are listed below, as well.  Find out more about the SEFI 2020 conference here.  

Research Paper – abstract

Research papers shall present original studies in the field of Engineering Education Research. Authors may follow the standards for good practices in EER. Please add the names of the authors in the relative fields and add the abstract in the text field. The text shall NOT contain the names of the authors neither references, in order to ensure a double-blind review process.Please do not upload any file at this stage of submission.When preparing your abstract, you are kindly asked to consider the review criteria on the conference website.You can upload a full paper after your abstract is accepted. Maximum length of abstract: 250 wordsDeadline: 2nd Mar 2020, 02:00:00am CET, Time left: 8 days 14 hoursChair contact:

Concept Paper – abstract

Short Paper – abstract

Workshop – proposal

FOR SEFI SIG: SEFI Working Group Workshop


FOR SPONSORS: Sponsor Workshop

Fellowship Finale: 24 months flew past!

img_2984My 24-month research fellowship at UCL has come to a close. December opened with farewell activities, end-of-year gatherings and conferences, holiday parties and goodbye events.

When work finished for the year, Aongus and I enjoyed the sights and sounds of London for Christmas. And, around New Year’s Day, we took to packing for our move back to Dublin.


I’ve included photos of a farewell breakfast (with my PhD student, Thomas Empson and co-supervisor Sushma Patel) with breath-taking views over London, special visitors, a December conference in Coventry for the UK-Ireland Engineering Education Network, the “leaving-do” hosted on my behalf by UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education, and some general holiday fun.


In wrapping up, I also delivered a lunchtime seminar at UCL about the research I’ve conducted and/or published over the past two years. You can view the Prezi I delivered here.

It’s been a whirlwind, but I have now moved back to Dublin and resumed my job teaching at TU Dublin (known as DIT when I left for the Fellowship). I’ve got plenty of fun new challenges on the horizon to keep me busy and always learning.

And, thankfully, Aongus has gotten a transfer from his company and will follow me over to Dublin soon!

PhD Breakfast from the Darwin Brasserie atop the “Walkie Talkie”

Colleagues visiting from South Africa

UK-Ireland Engineering Education Research Network conference

Leaving Do — Gifts, Drinks and Bowling

Leaving Do — Karaoke

Christmastime in London

Engineering Faculty Christmas Party

My Farewell Seminar

Call for Papers: ethics in engineering

As part of my work with the global Research in Engineering Education Network (, we’re organizing a special focus issue on ethics–and we invite you to submit a manuscript.

The topic is ethics in engineering education and practice.

The special focus issue will be published by Taylor and Francis in the Australasian Journal of Engineering Education. You can find out more about this and all journals in the field of engineering education on a webpage recently launched by REEN–many thanks to my boss here at UCL, Prof. John Mitchell, for collecting that valuable info so REEN could host it as a service to the EER community.

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Click to download the official Call for Papers.

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Full-length papers are due March 1, 2020 to begin the review process–but you can feel free to contact me anytime to request help or advice (irelandbychance at gmail dot com). Papers for this journal are 5,000 to 7,000 words, including the abstract and references.

I’m one of the two Guest Editors for this project; the Associate Editors are all members of the REEN board. The editorial team includes people from Australia, Africa, and South America, as well as Europe and the USA! The journal’s Editor in Chief is the coordinator for REEN’s upcoming symposium (REES 2021) in Perth, Australia December 5-8, 2021

And, I’ve just started on as Chair of REEN for the next two years. Delighted to have worked with such a productive group of people representing every continent over the past two years, and looking forward to two more great years! We’ve just welcomed two new members to the board–Cindy Finelli (from Michigan, USA) and Aida Olivia Pereira de Carvalho Guerra (from Aalborg, Denmark)–to round out our crew. 

Study of GRIT in engineering education

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The European Journal of Engineering Education just published the systematic review that Inês Direito and Manis Malik and I conducted. For this study, we located and reviewed all the journal articles and conference papers in the field of engineering education that dealt with university-level engineering students’ “grit”.

Grit was defined by Angela Duckworth and it involves two parts: persistence (consistency of effort) and passion (consistency of interest).

We analyzed the data, results, and findings reported in each article. We carefully and critically considered each author’s discoveries and interpretations.

We used a highly structured approach to studying groups of papers on a common theme; this method is called a “systematic review” of literature on a given subject. We wanted to answer one main question: What type of studies have been conducted on grit in engineering higher education, and what were the main outcomes?

The title of our paper is The study of grit in engineering education research: a systematic literature review and we have paid for Open Access so that you can download it and read it for free.

This is a new area of study among engineering education researchers and only 2 journal articles had been published by the time we were collecting data (spring 2018). On the other hand, 29 conference papers were available in the engineering and education databases we used.

The theory we are studying was developed by Angela Duckworth and is described in this book.

By studying the content and findings of these 31 papers, we were able to identify trends and unresolved questions. We made recommendations about things that need more investigation–and also about the best way to report findings to help make the reports more valuable to engineering educators and researchers.

Collaborating with Inês and Manish on this project was a joy–it was a huge challenge and realizing this publication required loads of grit–but doing this work with these budding scholars was also fun and rewarding. We decided to do this project together because we wanted to learn the systematic review method, execute it well, and learn about the psychological construct of “grit” at the same time.

Download the paper to find out what we learned!

To cite our article:

Inês Direito, Shannon Chance & Manish Malik (2019) The study of grit in engineering education research: a systematic literature review, European Journal of Engineering Education, DOI: 10.1080/03043797.2019.1688256

Discovering Budapest with SEFI

Engineering teachers from all across Europe headed to Budapest last week for the annual SEFI conference to share state-of-the art research and cutting-edge teaching methods. SEFI is the European Society for Engineering Education and this was the fourth time I attended the group’s annual conference.

As the annual SEFI meeting is one of the most interesting, informative and welcoming conferences you can encounter, engineering teachers from many corners of the globe–notably Australia, China, and the USA– joined as well.  The conference program includes many workshops, paper presentations, keynote addresses and plenty of fun social events.

This year, I helped lead three workshops and one special interest group meeting. I’ve uploaded photos of the activities where I was most involved.

Physical Computing

Here’s a glimpse of the workshop on Physical Computing I helped organize and run with my colleagues from TU Dublin–Paula Hannon, Damon Berry, and Mick Core. The title was “Physical Computing: A low-cost project-based approach to engineering education” and our abstract explained “One of the current trends in engineering education, often due to costs, is to use simulation software for the design and analysis of systems. However, using simulation packages as an alternative to real-world equipment may lead to a lack of student engagement and confidence, thereby reducing the impact of learning. This workshop presents an alternative mode of module delivery that facilitates practice-based learning, where students get hands-on practical computing using inexpensive, yet real-world equipment and technologies that can help transform notional self-directed learning to actual learning. In this workshop, participants will discuss the philosophy, rationale, and techniques used to teach Physical Computing at one Technological University.”


The workshop UCL hosted on phenomenography, taught by Mike Miminiris, with assistance from Inês Direito and me was well attended and we all learned new techniques:

Engineering Education Research group

Here are a few pics of the special interest group meeting on Engineering Education Research, led by the EER WG  coordinator Tinne De Laet:

Being an Effective Peer Reviewer

We also held a workshop on reviewing manuscripts for journals as an effective peer reviewer, lead alongside the editors-in-chief of three of the top journals in engineering education worldwide–Kristina Edström, Lisa Benson, and John Mitchell–along with deputy editors Maartje van den Bogaard and Jonte Bernhard, and associate editors Adam Carbury and myself:

The delegation from UCL

Here’s a set of photos of the UCL crew at SEFI, and some of the other presentations UCL folks made:

Fun and learning combined

And now for some entertaining pics–some of the conference in general, and others featuring the very fun gala abroad a river cruise and the post-conference city sightseeing tour led by local architects:



Interested in a new job or fellowship in engineering education research (EER)?


Shannon Chance and Abel Nyamapfene about engineering education research (EER) at UCL.

If you are interested in finding a new job or fellowship in engineering education research (EER) then please visit the EER Jobs & Opportunities page I’m hosing on this blog. I update it regularly as I become aware of new jobs, grants, conferences, and learning opportunities.

For instance: If you want to get more involved with engineering education research (EER), I recommend consulting the following sites. The sites can link you to all sorts of EER jobs, grants, fellowship, and funding calls. I’ve created this page for people who would like to work in the field of, or study how to do, EER.

I’m also sharing notifications I receive about EER funded Ph.D. fellowships and upcoming conferences that I learn about via emails or conferences.

Today the I’ve posted:

Select news from the February newsletter of the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI):

go to the ERR Jobs & Opportunities tab to learn more!


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)


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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Hot off the press: Research methodologies to link theory with practice

ejee cover

The cover design for EJEE

Our 12-member governing board of the Research in Engineering Education Network (REEN) aims to increase the quality and visibility of engineering education research globally. We do this by:


  • Organizing the Research in Engineering Education Symposium (REES) that is held every other year to encourage dialogue, networking, idea-sharing, and skill-building among engineering educators. You can join us in Cape Town for REES 2019, July 10-12, 2019.
  • Assisting local REES hosts in publishing the proceedings of the REES conferences.
  • Organizing and publishing special focus journal issues showcasing research conducted for dissemination at REES that carries the research findings far beyond the confines of the REES meeting itself.

Today, REEN received good news from one of our Board members, Professor Jonte Bernhard from Linköping University’s Department of Science and Technology in Norrköping, Sweden. Jonte and I are the two European Representatives on REEN. Every continent (except Antarctica) is represented on our Board.

Jonte happily announced:

the EJEE special issue based on REES 2015 in Dublin is now finally published online (individual papers have been published earlier) as vol. 44, issue 1-2:

This issue is on “Research methodologies that link theory and practice” which was the focus of the REES 2015 meeting in Dublin. You can read for free the EJEE Editorial for Special Issue: Research Methodologies that link theory and practice written by principal guest editor Anne Gardner with co-editors Jonte Bernhard, Sally Male, and Jennifer Turns. Your library may provide you with access to the paid articles. The list of articles is extensive.

Some have to do with design education (a favorite topic of mine!):

A major goal is to get engineering students to engage–especially in dealing with tough, complex, and wicked- or ill-structured problems, the way I observe architecture students do:

One of the papers in this journal has to do with the benefits of getting students to write, something I’ve published on before:

Two articles deal with spatial perception, an area where the Dublin hosts of REES 2015 have developed expertise with the help of expert Professor Sherly Sorby:

Other articles in the issue include:

Congratulations to all the authors published in this journal. Well done and keep raising the bar for us all!

Special Focus on Diversity


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


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.