Example SOC proposal for MSCA IF: Implementation Section

Many applicants run out of steam before they reach the Implementation Section, but in order to score high enough to be competitive, a proposal must carefully address each and every point requested in the Guidelines for Applicants. Leave no stone unturned if you want to win an MSCA Individual Fellowship! They’re extremely competitive, with a success rate around 9-12% depending on the year.

This post shares the Implementation Section of my unsuccessful 2015 proposal. I’ve also shared the scoring rubric, that I used to get the proposal over the line the following year when I earned the funded needed to spend two years at University College London. Your host organization will need to help you prepare. Find someone in their Research Support Office to help, in addition to getting help from your supervisor and the host country’s MSCA National Contact Point (NCP). They should ALL want to help you as the EU funds will be coming into their country and will support their local economy.

If you’re wanting to come to TU Dublin, our Research Support Office is awesome. Jean Cahill has been a huge support to me in writing grant proposals, with others in the office also chipping in to help us win.

The full suite of my posts on this topics includes:
Abstract and Eval
• Excellence Section 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4
Notes on using tables
• Impact Section 2.1, 2.2
Implementation Section 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4
Ethics Section
Final Report from 2016 submission

The evaluation sheet shows that I lost points in two categories for the work plan. Evaluators though it was not clear enough and I didn’t convince them I could finish everything in two years.

3     IMPLEMENTATION    

3.1  Overall coherence and effectiveness of the work plan

Table 6 provides a timeline of milestones (the lowercase letters correspond to Work Package descriptions below). Country codes indicate 10-day visits for data collection, outreach, and training (also see Table 4, data collection).

Table 6: Work Plan

WP1: Qualitative studies (Q1-3). Deliverables: two conference papers and a journal article. Milestones: (a) university ethics approvals secured, (b) 60 interviews completed and professionally transcribed, (*) coding and analysis.

WP2: Mixed-methods study (Q4). Deliverables: statistical calculations, a conference paper, and a journal article. Milestones: (c) survey questionnaire developed based on results emerging from Q1-3, (d) survey approved by ethics committees, (e) survey data collected from ~500 participants, and (*) statistical analysis.

WP3: Background research and book manuscript (Q5). Deliverable: book manuscript. Milestones for sending publisher: (f) proposal with background research, (g) first draft, (h) second draft, (i) permissions and final proof.

WP4: Outreach activities will engage multiple sections of society, as detailed in Section 2.2, Tables 4 and 5. Conferences dates are estimated for (1) SEFI, (2) PAEE, (3) REES, (4) EPDE, (5) ASHE, and (6) AERA based on both recent conference dates and when research results and findings will be available to present.

WP5: Training and Transfer-of-Knowledge. Project-related milestones: (j) social science training from Prof. Tyler and CEE researchers, (k) statistical analysis training from Prof. Tyler and CRUCIBLE researchers, (m) tailored project management training from Prof. Tyler, (n) tailored grant-writing mentorship from Prof. Tyler, and (t) a likely secondment will span a 3-month period (t) and will develop transferable skills. Other training activities (to diversify Dr. Chance’s competencies and develop transferable skills) are detailed in Tables 2 and 4, and match travel.

WP6: Management activities. Milestones: (o) Career Development Plan, (p) bi-weekly meetings with Nick Tyler to monitoring the Plan and manage quality and risks, (q) formal reviews with Prof. Tyler every six months, and consultation with (r) UCL financial managers, and (s) UCL Enterprise regarding Intellectual Property management.

3.2  Appropriateness of management structure & procedures, inc. quality management & risk management

Financial management for grants at UCL is provided centrally by Research Services within Financial Services. The research division collaborates closely with the engineering Dean and CEE’s administrators about financial monitoring and grant reporting. Upon arrival, Dr. Chance will take Introduction to Managing UCL Finances and her project will receive its own account code. Prof. Tyler and Dr. Chance will have financial control for the project with support from Research Services. IPR management will be conducted via meetings with experts fromUCL Enterprise. Progress monitoring will focus on quality and timeliness of research, training, transfer-of-knowledge, dissemination, and the Career Development Plan. Prof. Tyler and Dr. Chance will meet twice monthly to evaluate each of these items and to monitor research methods and grant writing. Prof. Tyler will help ensure Dr. Chance’s full integration into UCL and CEE and will provide entrée into CRUCIBLE events. In addition, Dr. Chance will report her progress regularly to colleagues in CEE—seeking feedback, collaboration, and advice. Through daily contact and regular CEE meetings, Emanuella Tilley and Drs. Paul Greening and John Mitchell will help Dr. Chance monitor progress of R&D on new undergraduate design activities and MSc activities/modules. Dr. Chance will meet with Dr. Abel Nyamapfene and Profs. David Guile and Andrew Brown several times each, for advice on targeted social science topics (please see Capacities). Risk monitoring will occur monthly in meetings with Prof. Tyler, to address emerging issues, such as those speculated in Table 6. The management procedures for this grant, along with Professional Development and VITAE training courses (see Section 1.2), will develop Dr. Chance’s skill in administering and managing research projects.

Table 6: Risk mitigation plan

3.3  Appropriateness of the institutional environment (infrastructure) (Please see Capacities chart also.)

University College London has world-class mechanisms to support international fellows in all aspects of training, result dissemination, public engagement, and project management. UCL is a global leader in funded research—running €347M in EU-funded research since 2007, including 173 MSCA projects. The project has the Dean’s strong support and the resources offered by the host facility (CEE), the institution, and Prof. Tyler guarantee that all aspects of the proposed research will be supported at UCL. The University commits to providing a safe and supportive work environment for Dr. Chance, a stable research contract, guidance of a highly experienced supervisor, an array of Professional Development and VITAE programs, administrative and financial accounting support, access to exemplary library resources and databases, and a shared open-plan office space. The office will be equipped for the computational needs of this project with up-to-date computer equipment, external hard-drives and secure data backup systems, telephone and Internet access. UCL also provides high-performance computing capacity for researchers. It has one of the world’s largest academic supercomputers available for use in this project. Logistical support for visiting researchers is provided by the offices for HR and Accommodation Services, and by UCL’s “European Office.” Orientation programs include On-line Induction, Diversity in the Workplace, and the Provost’s welcome and staff benefits marketplace. UCL and all its engineering departments earned Athena SWAN awards.

3.4  Competences, experience & complementarity of participating organizations & institutional commitment

Institutional commitment. The UK is steadfastly committed to educational excellence and these values infuse the UCL ethos (see Capacities chart). All new 3rd level teachers are mandated to earn teaching qualifications—providing a ready audience for Dr. Chance’s work and means to exploit findings and get tutors to apply them in practice. The EURAXESS Rights webpage notes the UK’s unique nation-wide research infrastructure that streamlines how 3rd level institutions earn the European Commission’s HR Excellence in Research Badge, which UCL earned in 2013. According to EURAXESS, “The UK’s approach includes ongoing national evaluation and benchmarking.” Additionally, UCL is a member of the European Charter for the Researchers and it upholds the Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers. UCL has an impressive record of internal, international, and intra-European collaboration that facilitates teamwork and multidisciplinary exploration of scientific questions. The approximately 2,500 research staff and fellows working at UCL today enjoy a dynamic, diverse, and supportive learning environment. This well-structured research environment will provide Dr. Chance with new examples, competencies, and skills, and catapult her research career forward. The proposed work plan, the resources offered by UCL and CEE for its implementation, the peer-to-peer training with and from CEE and CRUCIBLE researchers, the active participation of international partner organizations, and Dr. Chance’s growing record of success effectively work synergistically to ensure delivery of high-quality research that can have positive, large-scale impact for society.

Participating organizations.HMH, Science|Business, and CIF and described in the Capacities charts. Partners in Poland, Portugal, Ireland, and USA previously contributed to Dr. Chance’s research. This EF grant will facilitate mobility, providing access to resources for training and audiences for data gathering, outreach, and dissemination.

Example SOC proposal for MSCA IF: Impact (dissemination and communication, 2.2)

In 2015, sub-section 2.2 of my MSCA IF proposal on “Effectiveness of the proposed measures for communication and results dissemination”, in the Impact section, identified strategies for “exploiting” or “valorizing” possible business ideas stemming from the proposed work, as well as disseminating results and findings to academics, and communicating the value of research to non-academic audiences.

This example wasn’t funded in 2015, but was the following year when it was amended in response to reviewer comments. The full suite of posts I’m sharing on this proposal includes:
Abstract and Eval
• Excellence Section 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4
Notes on using tables
• Impact Section 2.1, 2.2
Implementation Section 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4
Ethics Section
Final Report from 2016 submission

2     IMPACT

2.2  Effectiveness of the proposed measures for communication and results dissemination

Table 4: Integrated plan for data collection, outreach, and training (by host and partners)

Exploitation strategy.

To meet global challenges, engineering must become more flexible, creative, and socially responsive4, 5, 6. Dr. Chance’s work will help transform the culture of engineering education and track outcomes. Results will facilitate publication of a book and possible spin-off businesses in consulting both addressing Question Q5) What knowledge of epistemology and design thinking can help educators support student development?

There is global demand for dramatic changes in engineering today, but education leaders don’t yet know what to do. Dr. Chance and Prof. Tyler have fresh, innovative ideas that are based on their prior work. Their body of work can provide a solid foundation for this EF project. So far the thrust of modernization in engineering education has been to implement Student-Centered and Problem-Based Learning (PBL). Similar pedagogies have been used to teach architecture since the Renaissance and engineering is fostering a healthy new focus on teamwork. Bridging the best practices from these fields and supplementing them with research is essential. Collaboration among architecture and engineering educators is crucial for knowledge transfer. R&D Dr. Chance leads as an EF will reach:

  • 2nd level students (via outreach to STEMettes in the UK for girls ages 11-22, RoboSlam robot-building workshops in the UK and Ireland, and Perspektywy Education Foundation in Poland for supporting girls in STEM)
  • 3rd level students (through new UCL undergraduate engineering modules and Perspektywy mentorship programs)
  • 3rd level teachers (through new UCL post-graduate modules that exploit Dr. Chance’s research) (see also Table 4)

Exploitation activities will embed research findings (collected and/or generated by Dr. Chance) into project briefs and module descriptors. The new MSc programs will have tremendous positive impact. This MSc program (to be launched in 2016) will be unique. It will be the world’s first and only Masters-level program designed to help university tutors upgrade their teaching skills across the realm of engineering topics. (DIT is launching an MPhil to train engineering education researchers, and Aalborg offers an MSc in Problem-Based Learning.) UCL’s program has broad appeal and a captive audience, since every new university teacher in the UK must earn at least one credential in teaching and learning. Two other avenues for exploiting Dr. Chance’s research findings are the creation of new programs for Creative Industries Federation and the possible creation of a business to help organizations (universities, businesses, and corporations) design and implement more effective education and training programs.

Public engagement strategy.

Dr. Chance will encourage public interest and involvement through engineering activities and communication. During the EF, Dr. Chance will advise multiple organizations—assisting some with program evaluation, strategic vision, and grant-writing support—and conducting engineering events for various age groups. In the UK, Dr. Chance will make public presentations through Creative Industries Federation (CIF) and STEMettes. Activities for STEMettes will include STEM projects (for 50+ girls) plus one or more RobSlam robot-building workshops (for 20+ girls). Dr. Chance will seek opportunities to make school presentations, become a MSCA Ambassador, and deliver public talks. Communication activities involve attracting the attention of news outlets. Dr. Chance will write one or more articles for Perspektywy Magazine. To help attract attention of TV, radio, and newspapers in the UK, Dr. Chance will attend UCL workshops in media relations for researchers. A 2014 workshop she took on this topic helped gain recognition for her work and as a result she was quoted in an Irish Timesarticle on women in STEM. She will continue to build public relations skills using UCL’s exceptional resources. She will maintain an educational blog to increase public understanding of research topics and activities.

Table 5: Impact targets for communication and dissemination (see Table 4 for outreach targets)

Dissemination strategy.

Dr. Chance will disseminate research findings to international audiences via conference papers, journal articles, and publication of a 100,000-word handbook for educators with a comprehensive new set of resources on epistemological development and design thinking (addressing Q5). Its planning, compilation, and editing will take 2-2.5 years. It will likely include 10 chapters of new primary research by leading experts in various aspects of epistemological development and design thinking, 8 chapters summarizing and synthesizing existing theories and literature in new ways, and an introduction and conclusion by Dr. Chance. She will seek funds to support an invitational symposium on the book’s topics to recruit specific experts internationally. This will facilitate knowledge generation and prompt submittal of high-quality chapters. Her work will help overcome a current problem, identified by Dr. Bill Williams (a probable co-editor for the book), wherein EER journals published in the USA almost exclusively cite US scholars. Trans-Atlantic authorship can help. She will recruit a 3rd editor as well.

Dr. Chance has the goal of publishing results of Research Questions 1-4 in two of the world’s top-ranked journals in EER and higher education. These ask: Q1*) To what extents do design and pedagogy influence women’s choice to study engineering at third-level? Q2*) Among women, to what extents do design-based pedagogies prompt more sophisticated epistemologies than traditional teaching formats? Q3*) How do women experience engineering over time, from early design projects to entering industry? Q4*) Among men and women, to what extents do design pedagogies prompt more sophisticated epistemologies than traditional teaching formats? She is targeting Learning and Instruction (impact factor 3.585, SJR 2.907) and the Journal of Engineering Education (impact factor 2.059) for publication. Dr. Chance aims to present preliminary findings at three top-tier conferences (AERA, ASHE, and REES) where she will also network internationally. She will assemble teams of peers to co-author conference papers on educ. design (for SEFI, PAEE, EPDE, see Table 5); leading these teams will develop her skills.

Example SOC proposal for MSCA IF: Impact (skills and conditions, 2.1)

Envisioning the impact your your future work poses quite a challenge. You nearly need a crystal ball! I hope that reading the draft of the Impact Section of my 2015 proposal (unsuccessful that year, but successful when modified in response to reviewer comments and re-submitted in 2016) will provide you ideas and inspiration for crafting your own plan of action.

In this post, I share subsection 2.1, on “Enhancing research- & innovation-related skills & working conditions to realize potential of individual”. In this subsection, I also show how the proposed work aligns with European policies and priorities.

The full suite of posts I’m sharing on this proposal includes:
Abstract and Eval
• Excellence Section 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4
Notes on using tables
• Impact Section 2.1, 2.2
Implementation Section 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4
Ethics Section
Final Report from 2016 submission

Hopefully, your proposed sponsor/PI can help you brainstorm ideas for increasing the impact of your work. It may be difficult to get feedback from a proposed PI during August (when you’re probably working on the proposal) since most European academics are out-of-office. Try talking this through with some people in your field of study if the PI isn’t available.

The (MSCA)-ITN the Innovative Training Networks program ENHPATHY ...
MSCA logo — Marie Curie had huge impact on science and life at a global level. This funding program celebrates her accomplishments and her perseverance.

2     IMPACT

2.1  Enhancing research- & innovation-related skills & working conditions to realize potential of individual

The training Dr. Chance can receive UCL is essential. It will provide management and innovation skills necessary for her to lead research teams on behalf of the EU. At DIT, she is successfully developing expertise in phenomenological research. Via a new fellowship at UCL, she will tackle ever-bigger challenges. She will master new research skills (developing statistical expertise to amplify the power of her qualitative results) and new transferrable skills (from global leaders in research). She will gain new exposure to industry. Her current projects at DIT are carefully aligned with policy foci of FP7 IIF, which is geared toward transferring knowledge into Europe by bringing foreign researchers here. Through FP7, Dr. Chance has been bringing—from the US to DIT—international perspectives and knowledge of curriculum design, program evaluation, architecture and design education, as well as various frameworks and procedures for conducting educational research. In order to grow and excel in research, she and DIT’s CREATE research group must develop a wider skill set. This will enable them to manage large-scale projects for education and industry in the EU—training that Prof. Tyler and UCL can readily provide. New skills, essential for Dr. Chance to garner a large-scale competitive grant to lead an independent research team, are:

  • Managing multiple projects and budgets, gained by exposure to a well-established research management system.
  • Preparing and submitting applications for complex, larger-scale grants with multiple partners.
  • Creating new programs at 2nd, 3rd, and post-graduate levels and rigorously assessing them.
  • Conducting large-scale surveys and learning to analyze them with new techniques to extend generalizability.
  • Supervising PhD students and learning to secure funding for their research.
  • Operating within the industrial sector and learning to focus research on questions relevant to industry.
  • Communicating STEM topics to target audiences via events and public media, and compiling/editing books.

Horizon 2020 recognizes these types of need, supporting ongoing development of experienced researchers through policies and EF programs. The EU seeks to enhance “international cooperation in research and innovation” through a strategic approach that tackles global societal challenges. The EU seeks to develop/deploy effective new solutions to achieve “excellence and attractiveness in research and innovation” and ensure its own economic and industrial competitiveness. By leveraging interdisciplinarity in innovative ways, this project will deliver great benefit to UCL, DIT, Dr. Chance as a researcher, partner institutions and engineering education globally. It will also benefit the EU—economically, socially, scientifically—by addressing problems described in section 1.1 and through:

  • Improved pedagogies for engineers that attract additional engineers from a larger, more diverse pool of people.
  • Perfecting phenomenology as an approach for EER and extending its generalizability across the EU via surveys.
  • Building resources to recruit and skills and train new scholars in engineering education to research EU problems.
  • Cross-pollinating and coordinating educational offerings among engineering education centers in the EU.

As a result of this EF, UCL’s new CEE will reap benefit from the US and Irish perspectives, connections, and skills that Dr. Chance will bring. Dr. Chance will connect UCL’s CEE with DIT’s CREATE research group and intends to return to CREATE following the EF, to transfer critical knowledge back to DIT—bringing new credentials and crucial new skills. She will help CREATE gain formal status as a research center, secure large-scale grants, and attract emerging scholars to Ireland who can learn new research skills and generate new knowledge for society.

This project addresses the focus of H2020 EF and all six key Indicators for promoting and monitoring Responsible Research and Innovation defined by the European Commission: (1) public engagement, (2) gender equality, (3) science education, (4) open access, (5) ethics, and (6) governance. This proposed work supports many 2015 key initiatives of the Innovation Union, including: (1) promoting excellence in education (through MSc, undergrad projects, outreach, and dissemination) and skills development (of both Dr. Chance those she transfers knowledge to); (2) delivering the European Research Area (5 keys explained below); (3) focusing EU funding instruments on Innovation Union priorities (e.g., societal challenges related to STEM); (3) promoting openness and capitalizing on Europe’s creative potential (increasing creativity by using design thinking in engineering); (4) spreading the benefits of innovation across the Union (through collaboration and outreach in four EU countries); (5) increasing social benefits (supporting students in STEM); and (6) pooling forces to achieve breakthroughs (creating European Innovation Partnerships). The secondment supports IU Commitment #2B to support “knowledge alliances” between education and business and #7 to increase involvement of SMEs. Dr. Chance’s research supports Europe’s Flagship Initiative for Youth on the Move by developing modern education systems to deliver key competencies and make education more relevant to young people’s needs. It addresses all 5 key prioritiesof the European Research Area:

1) More effective national research systems (by strengthening UK and Irish research through UCL and DIT).

2) Improved trans-national cooperation (through cross-border links, research agendas, and coordinated offerings).

3) A more open labor market for researchers (providing training crucial for Dr. Chance to base all research in EU).

4) Gender equality/mainstreaming in research organizations (research to support female students, conducted about and by women, which incorporates all 9 recommendations on research content listed in the EU’s gender toolkit).

5) Optimal circulation, access, and transfer of scientific knowledge (via diverse dissemination, communication, and outreach, including an open-access book—part of IU Commitment #20 and Point 5 of ERA Communication 2012).

Doing social science as an MSCA Research Fellow

A Marie Curie Research Fellowship is about developing new research skills by doing research projects under the supervision of highly skilled experts. People who are interested in doing a fellowship like this might want to see what one looks like in reality, particularly a fellowship in the realm of social sciences and/or educational sciences (the SOC panel for European projects). This post describes research I generated myself (working with colleagues during my recent 2-year MSCA Individual Fellowship at UCL) and shares some photos taken with other researchers during my fellowship.

My time was distributed across six work packages (WPs). Today, I described work related to WP1, Qualitative Research and WP2, Multiple Methods.

These two work packages developed my skill with various social science methodologies. I am a pragmatist in that I try to implement whatever methodology is best suited to answer my specific question. And I have so many questions!

The experts I worked with at University College London (UCL) were Professor Nick Tyler, Professor John Mitchell, and the recently promoted Dr. Inês Direto. They were amazing!

At the time I joined, UCL was ranked seventh in the world for research by QS! It was a fantastic place to develop new skills. The fellowship ended December 31, 2019, but I am pleased to say I’m still working with UCL even now, as I was appointed Visiting Professor there for a five year term in addition to having the two-year fellowship. I collaborate with Inês and John nearly every single day.

London was calling my name! I jumped at the “chance” to work at one of the world’s leading research institutions even though I’d nearly just started a new Lecturing post at TU Dublin. Thankfully, my supervisors in Dublin saw value in the exchange and encouraged me to go.

My MSCA-IF research was looking at how design projects influence the cognitive and epistemological development of undergraduates in engineering and architecture. To put it more generally, I investigate how to teach engineering as effectively as possible.

You can read an overview of the fellowship here and download my final report, with similar information, here.

WP1, Qualitative Research

The intention of WP1 was to use qualitative research methods to study how engineering and architecture students learn and how they conceptualize design creation and knowledge generation. The following deliverables were listed in the fellowship application: submission of one conference paper and one journal manuscript. The list of items produced is provided below and exceeds the stated expectations. Under WP1, I delivered four conference publications and one journal publication during the fellowship period. I have an additional three conference publications and two journal manuscripts underway.

The first journal paper published under WP1 was an editorial overview of epistemological development and identity development among students published in IEEE Transactions on Education. The academic citation for it is:

CHANCE, S., Williams, B., Goldfinch, T., Adams, R. S., & Fleming, L. N. (Eds.). (August 2019). Guest Editorial Statement for the Special Issue on Using Enquiry- and Design-Based Learning to Spur Epistemological and Identity Development of Engineering Students. IEEE Transactions on Education, (62)3, 157-164. DOI 10.1109/TE.2019.2923043. (Download here).

The next set of manuscripts investigated the development of civil engineers. I conducted nine interviews with civil engineers practicing in London to explore how they think about ethics and also how they integrate global responsibility (e.g., environmental and social sustainability) into their work. This yielded two conference papers:

CHANCE, S. M., Direito, I., Lawlor, R., Cresswell-Maynard, K., Pritchard, J., Tyler, N., & Mitchell, J. (2019, July). Background and design of a qualitative study on globally responsible decision-making in civil engineering. In Proceedings of the 8th Research in Engineering Education Symposium, REES 2019-Making Connections (Vol. 8, pp. 211-220). REEN (Research in Engineering Education Network) and SASEE (South African Society for Engineering Education). (Download here or here.)

CHANCE, S. M., Direito, I., & Mitchell, J. (forthcoming). To what degree do graduate civil engineers working in London enact Global Responsibility and support UN Sustainable Development Goals? Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (EESD 2020) conference in Cork, Ireland.

The same UK-based engineering study will yield a number of journal articles. The conference paper on Sustainable Development Goals, listed above, was produced for the Engineering Education for Sustainable Development (EESD 2020) conference and is being expanded into a journal article. Moreover, the two following manuscripts have been drafted and are currently being reviewed and refined:

CHANCE, S. M., Mitchell, J., Direito, I., & Creswell-Maynard, K. (accepted for development). Limited by scope and client request: Challenges faced by early-career civil engineers enacting global responsibility in the UK workplace. European Journal of Engineering Education Special Issue: Early Career Engineers and the Development of Engineering Expertise.

CHANCE, S. M., Lawlor, R., Direito, I., Creswell-Maynard, K., & Mitchell, J. (under development). Ethical empowerment: A proposal for following past success to support sustainable behavior among civil engineers. Australasian Journal of Engineering Education. Special Issue: Ethics in Engineering Education and Practice.

Closely related to this UK engineering study is work I have done with the PhD student I have been supervising. The student’s doctoral thesis investigates how creativity is manifest in engineering design and production. The two following papers have been published and presented at conferences—they helped apply the student’s research on engineering organizations to higher education organizations—and many more journal papers are under development by the same team, to be submitted to various journals.

Empson, T., CHANCE, S. M., & Patel, S. (2019). A critical analysis of the contextual pressures sustainable development presents HE researchers and evaluators. Society for Research on Higher Education (SRHE) 2019 conference in Cardiff, UK.

Empson, T., CHANCE, S. M., & Patel, S. (2019, September). A critical analysis of ‘creativity’ in sustainable production and design. In 21st International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education. Glasgow, UK. (Download here or here).

All the projects listed above were helping build my skills to conduct the headline project of this Work Package. For this headline project, I conducted in-depth interviews with 26 architecture and civil engineering students in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the USA. This yielded a paper for the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), one of the world’s most prominent conferences on engineering education:

CHANCE, S., Mimirinis, M., Direito, I., Mitchell, J., & Tilley, E. (2019, June). How architecture and engineering students conceptualize design creation: Report of a pilot study. In American Society for Engineering Education (Vol. 126). American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). Tampa, Florida. (Download here or here).

Two manuscripts are now under development using the data collected. These will make a major contribution to the knowledge base related to design education:

CHANCE, S. M., Miminiris, M., & Direito, I. (under development). How architecture and engineering students conceptualize design creation. Targeting the Journal of Engineering Education or similar.

CHANCE, S. M., Miminiris, M., & Direito, I. (under development). How architecture and engineering students conceptualize the generation of new knowledge. Targeting Design Studies or similar.

By attending a May 2018 workshop at the Society for Research on Higher Education (SRHE), I discovered phenomenography would be the optimal methodology for studying the issue defined in my MSCA grant application. As a result, UCL brought in the teacher of the SRHE workshop, Dr. Mike Miminiris, and employed him as a consultant to help me and my colleagues learn this highly structured research methodology. Dr. Miminiris provided a seminar for UCL staff and has guided me, and other researchers from UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education, through the phenomenographical analysis process.

I made some minor deviations from the work plan originally proposed in my MSCA application; however, these alterations did not alter the intent of the work. For instance, I had proposed to work across sectors with the UK’s Creative Industries Foundation, but ultimately worked instead with UNESCO, Engineers without Borders UK (EWBUK) and the UK’s Royal Academy of Engineering. I originally envisioned collecting data from participants in Ireland, Portugal, Poland and the United Kingdom, but ultimately my data were collected in Ireland, Portugal, the United States and the United Kingdom. I also honed the specific research questions, developing upon the originally envisioned themes of each work package, by making the sub-questions more precise within the major theme while maintaining the intent to investigate:

  • Gender (supporting diversity)
  • Epistemic cognition
  • Outcomes of design-based learning pedagogies

WP2, Multiple Methods in Research

I also shifted the intention of WP2 slightly after getting the Fellowship underway. I focused my efforts on “multiple methodologies” in engineering education research rather than solely “mixed methods” as originally proposed. This shift in definition allowed me to learn a wider range of research techniques. For instance, changes to WP2 allowed study of the psychological construct of grit.

Learning to work collaboratively as part of a highly effective research team was a major outcome of this fellowship. Another shift in WP2 was that, while I originally anticipated developing and conducting my own survey to extend WP1, I was able to learn more by working with psychologist Dr. Inês Direito to design and implement a quantitative survey for use at UCL. That study was presented/published via the Research in Engineering Education Symposium (REES) in Cape Town in July 2019.

Many researchers use a single methodology, or a highly focused set of similar methodologies, to answer their questions. Thus, they tend to ask questions that can be answered with the methodologies they know. As this particular MSCA Fellow aims to conduct research projects that address a wide array of research questions, I need to develop mastery of many different methods. This way, I can use the most appropriate research method for answering each type of question when it arises. Therefore, the intention of WP2 was to build my skills in new methodologies, and also to help build the skills of the larger engineering education research (EER) community by infusing knowledge about these methodologies.

In the MSCA grant application, the following deliverables were promised under WP2: submission of one conference paper and one journal manuscript. Under WP2, however, I have already delivered five conference presentations, three published journal articles, four conference presentations, and one encyclopedia entry. In addition, I have two conference manuscripts underway. Details are provided below.

The first major project under WP2 had two focus points: (1) comparing two different methodologies and applying these methodologies to (2) study engineering teachers’ experiences implementing design- and problem-based learning. A major publication resulted:

CHANCE, S. M., Duffy, G., & Bowe, B. (2019). Comparing grounded theory and phenomenology as methods to understand lived experience of engineering educators implementing Problem-Based Learning. European Journal of Engineering Education, DOI: 10.1080/03043797.2019.1607826. (Download here or here).

The content was also delivered at a leading conference:

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

The above publications are part of a larger effort by this Fellow to support diverse students. As a result of this MSCA, I have emerged as a highly visible member and leader of the EER community globally. As part of this community, I am trying to develop better teaching practices (androgies, or pedagogies for adults). To support this effort, I co-authored an overview on socio-cultural diversity in engineering education that was published in a leading journal:

CHANCE, S., Bottomly, L., Panetta, K., & Williams, B. (Eds.). (November 2018). Guest Editorial Statement for the Special Issue on Increasing the Socio-Cultural Diversity of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Related Fields. IEEE Transactions on Education, (61)4, 261-264. DOI 10.1109/TE.2018.2871656. (Download here).

Work conducted via WP2 also helped inform an encyclopedia entry I authored:

CHANCE, S. M. (2020). Problem-Based Learning: Use in Engineering Disciplines. In Amey, M. J. & David, M. E. (Eds.). The SAGE Encyclopedia of Higher Education, 5v. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Under WP2, I also interviewed 20 women studying engineering in Ireland. This added to the set of interviews I had previously conducted, and it is allowing me to produce longitudinal studies on women’s experiences learning engineering and working in engineering teams. Data analyzed to date focus on the experiences of: (a) a single mother studying engineering and overcoming challenges and (b) Middle Eastern women studying engineering in Ireland. In the future, journal articles will be prepared, related to both topics. Already-published work on this project includes one conference publication on the single mother:

Williams, B., CHANCE, S. M., & Direito, I. (2019). No one really minded a female barmaid, but I don’t know they’d “not mind” a female engineer: One student’s journey. UK-Ireland Engineering Education Research Network 2019 conference in Coventry, UK. (Download here).

Already-published work on this project also includes multiple conference papers about Middle Eastern students’ experiences:

CHANCE, S. M., & Williams, B. (forthcoming). Here you have to be mixing: Collaborative learning on an engineering program in Ireland as experienced by a group of Middle Eastern young women. EDUCON2020 – IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference in Porto, Portugal.

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

An additional report of the Middle Eastern students’ experiences was also presented at the following conference but was inadvertently omitted from the proceedings:

CHANCE, S. M. & Williams, W. (2018). Middle Eastern Women’s Experiences of Collaborative Learning in Engineering in Ireland. International Conference on Interactive Collaborative Learning (ICL) in Kos Island, Greece. (Download here).

In a similar vein to the study on Middle Eastern women studying in Ireland, an additional conference paper has been drafted that relates to people studying engineering abroad: 

Direito, I., Williams, W., & CHANCE, S. M. (under development). Brexit impact: Perspectives of Portuguese students and staff in the UK. The 4th International Conference of the Portuguese Society for Engineering Education (CISPEE 2020) in Lisbon, Portugal. (This one we shifted to SEFI 2020 since COVID postponed the CISPEE conference.)

At the start of this MSCA, I and my colleague at UCL decided they also wanted to learn to conduct systematic literature reviews. They published individual studies using this methodology at the Societe Europeenne pour la Formation des Ingenieurs (SEFI) conference in 2018, and they joined with a third colleague they met there to later conduct workshops on the topic and publish a journal article collaboratively. The citation below is for our initial conference paper:

CHANCE, S., & Direito, I. (2018, October). Identification and preliminary review of doctoral theses in engineering education that have used phenomenological methods. In Proceedings of the 46th SEFI Annual Conference 2018. Creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship for engineering education excellence. Societe Europeenne pour la Formation des Ingenieurs (SEFI). Copenhagen, Denmark. (Download here).

After joining together, the team selected one of the initial conference papers and developed it into a journal article on the construct of grit and how it has been studied in engineering education.

Direito, I., CHANCE, S. M., & Malik, M. (2019). The study of grit in engineering education research: A systematic literature review. European Journal of Engineering Education. DOI: 10.1080/03043797.2019.1688256. (Download here).

My colleagues and I were able to study and critically evaluate how grit has been researched and reported in engineering education and formulate recommendations to guide others reporting work on grit in EER. This was one of the studies where my colleagues and I were practicing the research methodology known as “systematic literature review” which lead to multiple conference papers as well as the journal article listed above.

Direito, I., CHANCE, S., Tilley, E., & Mitchell, J. (2019, July). Assessing the grit and mindset of incoming engineering students with an emphasis on gender. In Proceedings of the 8th Research in Engineering Education Symposium (REES 2019) (Vol. 8, pp. 253-261). REEN (Research in Engineering Education Network) and SASEE (South African Society for Engineering Education). (Download here or here).

New EER Meet Up: June 23

I’m delighted to announce a new EER Meet Up Tuesday 23rd June 3pm UTC for International Women in Engineering Day! It’s been organized by University College London (UCL) with support from the Research in Engineering Education Network (REEN).

Info and link for registration: https://sway.office.com/6ADiAvKVyCcvJl59?ref=Link

Keynotes:

  • Prof. Dr. Petra Lucht on De-Entangling Gender & Engineering Education Through Research-Based Learning and Teaching
  • Anika Gupta with Analysis of students’ ratings of teaching quality to understand the role of gender and socio-economic diversity in higher education
  • Robin Fowler and Trevion Henderson presenting There are many “I”s in TEAM: Considering gendered experiences in team-based pedagogy

Plus breakout discussions:

  • Gender Inclusive Student Teamwork
  • Gender implications of improving students’ spatial visualization skills
  • Moving forward, planning for change – a discussion on the “ASEE & SEFI Joint Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: A Call and Pledge for Action.”

Please register and join us on the 23rd. Everyone interested in engineering, STEM, teaching, and/or education research is welcome! And it’s free!

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 🙂

Gathering your scholarly community online: B-EER in a Nutshell!

This blog post highlights opportunities I see for building research capacity and sense of community — for networking and sharing knowledge among academics. We’ve being doing some fun and interesting things in Engineering Education Research (EER) and I’m posting help transfer some of this learning to other subfields of education. 

I’ll summarize what we’ve been doing to build community and share knowledge across the EER community globally. Fun communal learning activities have included small group chats, REEN working meetings, MCAA-UK social events, IFEES GEDC online seminars, and of course, the Big EER Meet Up (B-EER)!

Small group chats

I’ve been learning new things everyday, particularly through text chats with Drs. Inês Direito in London, Lelanie Smith in Pretoria SA, and Carlos Efren Mora in the Canary Islands of Spain.

We’re applying the sorts of knowledge-sharing and group-building techniques discussed in a TU Dublin staff training session yesterday. From a colleague’s comment, I found tips from Arizona State University for helping students build a sense of community. I even passed it along to my partner Aongus as he’s starting a certification course online soon and can benefit from the tips; like me, he enjoys classroom interaction and will miss that studying online.

Inês and lelanie, Carlos and I have been chatting virtually about mutual research interests, teaching and student-engagement techniques, and grants for over a year now. We mentor each other.

REEN collaboration

Our Research in Engineering Education Network (REEN) Board meets online every month so we’d already gotten pretty good at sharing ideas this way. We share video, audio, and text chat using, currently, MS Teams. We put our agenda in Google Docs and make revisions, converting them into minutes, together online as we meet.

I’m proud to serve as the Chair of REEN, which helps bring the global community of engineering education researchers together through symposia, special focus journal publications, and focused events to build knowledge, capacity/agency, and a sense of community.

The Governing Board is responsible for implementing the mission and goals of REEN by providing strategic direction, continuity, and overall leadership. Each representative serves a four-year term. The main commitment is a 1-hour meeting (held online) once a month, and members are asked also to provide a bit of time between monthly meetings for project work such as: supporting the symposium (e.g., reviewing abstracts and papers), development of special focus journal issues, or serving on special-focus ad hoc subcommittees. We currently have a call for two new positions. Please see our official call document.

REEN recently helped organize the B-EER Meet Up, described at the bottom of this post. We see it as a great way to bring our global EER community together and galvanize connections! 

MCAA-UK socials

Being at home more means I’ve had better chance to attend meetings outside Ireland. I’m in the Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA) and have been attending meetings and online socials of the MCAA Chapter in the UK the past couple months. Leaders of MCAA-UK introduced me to the paper that I used as inspiration for my B-EER coffee chat featured in an earlier post.

Our May 20th online social of the MCAA-UK

IFEES GEDC online seminars

I’ve also attended several of the now-weekly IFEES GEDC online seminars, featuring well-known and highly accomplished scholars in EER. These are big, high-profile events with up to 500 participants each. There are usually people waiting at the “door” to get in after they’ve reached maximum capacity. At the end, a few people get to ask questions, but there’s not much room to interact in this forum. Nevertheless, I’m getting to hear speakers I couldn’t otherwise (during the teaching semester at least), because I wouldn’t be able to travel to them!

A fascinating recent lecture was on “Problem-based Megaprojects” conducted at Aalborg University. The presentation was by Drs. Anette Kolmos and Lykke Brogaard Berte.

B-EER Meet Up

I haven’t actually summarized the outcome of the Bigg EER Meet Up that I announced for registration in early May. So here you go!

We held our first Big EER Meet Up online throughout the day on May 14th, 2020. The event was spearheaded by Professor John Mitchell, a Director of the Centre for Engineering Education at University College London (UCL). Co-sponsors included REEN and other organizations near and dear to my heart — including TU Dublin’s CREATE research group, Virginia Tech, and UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education (CEE) — as well as Aalborg University’s Centre for PBL, Purdue University’s School of Engineering Education, the Technological University of Malaysia (UTM), and the University of Western Australia (UWA). You can view introductory information on a previous post.

We put this event together in just two weeks, and 550 people registered! The event included seven keynotes — mostly early career researchers (ECRs) and one emeritus professor — and seven break out sessions. We had close to 250 attend each keynote session, and the breakout (coffee break) sessions ranged from about 35 to 90. One session was still going with 60 people in it two hours later! You can access a compilation of the recorded keynote sessions and abstract of coffee chats on a UCL webpage.

I previously posted a blog about one of the keynotes, on Grit in Engineering.

Below is a screenshot of a super-interesting presentation by Dr. Kerrie Douglas of Purdue University, reporting her research on Student Experience and Social Supports in Online Engineering Courses During COVID-19.

Research on post-COVID student experience by Dr Kerrie Douglas of Purdue University. You can view her presentation at https://youtu.be/eZ6pMFWgIq4

I’d say the event was a big success! Productively informal, well attended, with lots of positive vibe and momentum. This is the type of community I want to build and be part of! Yes, there’s room for critical perspectives, but we truly are about lifting each other and the quality of our work UP, as a way to better serve students and one another.

Prof. John Mitchell believes “our best work comes in the discussions and so this was a deliberate attempt to promote that”. After the event, several early and mid-career research told me this provided an introduction to the EER community, good networking, and ability to attend as they can’t always afford the time and costs of attending EER conferences in person (many have technical conferences to attend and fund as well).

Evidently, this Meet Up format helped a gap by providing a more casual and interactive option, online and at low cost. Thanks so much, UCL, for funding the event!

Dr. Karrie Douglas answering questions following her online presentation.

We’ve decided to keep building the capacity of this community by keeping the Meet Ups rolling.

We now envision hosting a mini Meet Up every 4-6 weeks during Work From Home periods, to be organized primarily by UCL and REEN. I’ve recommended this condensed version be just one “slot” long and that it rotate between the three slots we used previously (starting at 11:30 PM, 11 AM, and 4 PM BST to comfortably involve people in all time zones). I’ve recommended that we hold a Big EER Meet Up every 6-12 months as well.

Mini Meet Ups will likely include 2-3 keynotes with at least half featuring early career researchers, then one mid- to late-career researcher presenting per Meet Up to help draw a bigger audience. 

We’re now planning a mini Meet Up for International Women in Engineering on the 23rd June — an EER session with a focus on diversity in engineering. Stay tuned!

Action for Inclusion in Engineering Education

My closest-colleague, Dr. Inês Direito from University College London’s Centre for Engineering Education, has been working long and hard on a diversity initiative. She spearheaded efforts on the European side to craft “A Call and Pledge for Action” and get it adopted and formally launched by both the European Society of Engineering Education (SEFI) and the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

ASEE & SEFI Joint Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Pledge for Action

April 2020

As a member of a global engineering community, I pledge to celebrate diversity, create opportunities, and actively support inclusive environments, in which all my students, colleagues, and members of the wider society are welcomed, respected, and valued. I acknowledge that a path with no examination, reflection, and action perpetuates an inequitable status quo. I commit to work collaboratively with all engineering community members and stakeholders to disrupt systemic exclusion and to create a culture where all will thrive.

This statement was approved by the Board of Directors of the European Society for Engineering Education: SEFI on 27 April 2020 and the Board of Directors of the American Society for Engineering Education: ASEE on 23 March 2020.

Many people on both sides of the Atlantic were crucial to the development and adoption of this “ASEE & SEFI Joint Statement on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” but I saw first-hand the dedication, hard work, and perseverance of Dr. Direito from start to finish, as I had the desk next to her at UCL for two years and we still work together on various research projects.

Dr. Susan Walden led the effort on the US side and displayed great resilience as well. I hold Susan in even higher esteem now, having watched the process via Inês. You see, Inês rather recently crossed the threshold from Early Career Researcher (ERC) to Senior Researcher, having gained promotion at UCL last September. Working with a skilled, enthusiastic, kind, and mentoring expert like Susan was great for Inês and an inspiration to behold.

Thank goodness for those who mentor others and help our engineering education research (EER) community flourish!

Writing such a document and getting buy-in from the other co-authors, including several from TU Dublin where I teach engineering, is complex enough. But getting the statement endorsed at the highest levels of SEFI and ASEE is remarkable and requires passion for your cause as well as political fortitude.

I wasn’t directly involved, but I watched the process and lent a supportive ear and I am delighted with the results. I extend my own personal thanks to task force members Lesley Berhan, Sara Clavero, Yvonne Galligan, Anne-Marie Jolly, Eric Specking, and Linda Vanasupa and whose who made direction contributions via SEFI (Gabrielle Orbaek White, Bill Williams, Martin Vigild, Mike Murphy, and Yolande Berbers) and ASEE (Rebecca Bates, Jean Bossart, Karin Jeanne Jensen, Liz Litzler, Tasha Zepherin, Stephanie Farrell, Bevlee Watford, and Stephanie Adams). Inês says that Klara Ferdova from SEFI was an amazing support, as well! Thanks to all who contributed to the development and adoption of this document.

Please read the Statement and take the Pledge:

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Persistence and Passion: Do engineering students have GRIT?

My colleague and co-author, Dr. Inês Direito presented findings last week, of a systematic review we did with Manis Malik on how grit is being researched in engineering education. Inês culminated the line up of seven online keynotes for the Big EER Meet Up, held May 14th.

The title of the paper she presented is “The study of grit in engineering education research: A systematic literature review” and we paid upfront to allow you to download the article free of change.

Grit is defined as having two components–perseverance and passion. In the study Inês reported, we assessed the research design, results, and findings reported in 31 publications. All but two of these were conference papers; other two were journal articles. This in itself indicates the study of grit is relatively new in EER (engineering education research). EER studies to date suggest that perseverance is important for studying engineering, but they haven’t had much to say about the element of passion. Is this a problem of the instruments used to measure grit? Is it specific to engineering? Grit is a domain general construct, and perhaps the construct doesn’t exactly fit the engineering domain? Or, is passion not actually a component you can separate from persistence? These things are not yet known. Our paper explores such questions and makes recommendations for how EER scholars should report their work to allow cross-study comparisons and pooling of knowledge.

About 200 people from all around the globe tuned in to hear Inês’ presentation and ask questions afterward. The audience was lively and attentive as you can see from this screenshot:

Some attendees of the Big EER Meet Up on May 14th.

I was delighted with the clarity of Inês’ explanations. She has expanded the findings further beyond what we published and she is continuing to build knowledge and understanding of the topic. Thus, even if you read the paper, you’ll want to watch the video, too. Perhaps you’ll even want to cite both in your future work, if you have interest in grit?

Part of what impresses me, it that Inês is so effectively drawing from her PhD studies in Psychology to inform the way she studies and explains Grit. Inés pre-recorded the presentations and then answered questions live, and you can watch the presentation by clicking below:

The other six keynote presentations from the Big EER Meet Up are also available to view: https://sway.office.com/cNUsuiNUObg2SQNx?ref=Link. And again, the link to the paper on grit in EER is: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03043797.2019.1688256

Well done, Inês! I’m so fortunate to collaborate with and learn from you!

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Shannon and Inês at UCL