Evaluating Grant Proposals for the European Commission

This past Sunday night, I hopped on the Eurostar from London St. Pancreas–and in just over two hours I disembarked at Midi station in Brussels. I love that Chunnel!

I’ve spent the week working alongside other experts from around Europe to evaluate projects proposed for funding. This is an activity I am doing to develop more skills with regard to grant writing and program design.

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Aongus took the underground over to St. Pancreas Sunday night, to see me off as I boarded the Eurostar.

This is a job that requires a great deal of concentration. We’ve each been working for weeks–studying 30-page proposals, 7-8 of them per expert,  and then creating very detailed individual reports, comparing and compiling these into group reports, and then meeting face-to-face on-site in Brussels to discuss each proposal in depth. The scores we assign will be used to determine which organizations will receive funds to support doctoral and post-doctoral researchers.

 

Through this process, the European Commission and its Research Executive Agency (REA) provide detailed, specific feedback to applicants as well as numeric scores.

Many applicants succeed and receive financial support, but I’ll admit that with the sums provided, competition is fierce.

I believe this funding is well spent. It builds the capacity of researchers to do great work and learn important new skills. It yields results that make life and systems better at the individual, organizational, national, regional, and international levels. It produces valuable research results in a vast array of fields and disciplines.

The evaluation process is extremely important. It has to be done with extreme care. It is a huge amount of work, and the experts involved take the job very seriously.

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The evaluation itself is confidential, but pictures of Brussels I can share. 🙂

Many dozen experts have been involved this week, as reviewers and quality control officers. Our purpose is to deliver accurate and reliable results.

 

As a scholar from the States, I particularly value the feedback given to applicants in this process. Great care is taken to keep the scoring open, transparent, and fair, and to yield consistency from year to year as well as between proposals.

It’s a tight-knit process with a demanding timetable. And we’ve done remarkably well at staying focused and on track.

Why do I see the results of this process as valuable? In the U.S., fellowship and grant applicants rarely get feedback. I suspect it’s a result of the litigious nature of “American” society that funding agencies don’t want to open themselves up to questioning, and they won’t let applicants know what was seen as weak about the proposal. They will provide only very general feedback if any at all. I’ve had this experience with at least three different funding agencies in the USA. It was exceedingly frustrating and turned me off from wanting to keep bashing my head against a rock (even though I had a relatively high level of success winning grants for educational/learning sciences!).

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The plaza next to the building where evaluations are conducted.

Working here at REA, our primary focus is on achieving accurate scores that can hold water. There’s much less paranoia on the part of the funders, in my opinion. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be the same fear of redress–in the case of any mistake, the program managers actually do want to address it in a way that is fair to the applicant. Transparency and proper channels for redress/appeal are foundational principles of the programs that REA funds.

 

Because REA’s process provides reliable feedback, I myself was able to improve one past proposal that wasn’t successful on its first submission. I was able to learn and to re-submit. By addressing the points raised in the first evaluation, I was able to secure funding the second time around!

In the United States, I’d have been left in the dark, making the same mistakes over and over again. In my experience (having submitted 3 unsuccessful proposals, 2 successful proposals, and one pending proposal to various  MSCA programs evaluated via REA), the European evaluation system is FAR better than the US system. A knowledgable colleague told me yesterday that the overhead costs for evaluating and managing/overseeing the quality of these MSCA programs is lower than typical of other similar programs worldwide.

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Dinner at Lyon!

I can’t say this work is pleasurable, but I do enjoy being here, working hard, and feeling satisfaction by week’s end. It’s sometimes bittersweet, though, as it is Thanskgiving and, also, yesterday would have been Dad’s 74th birthday. He died five weeks ago, right after my assignments for this job arrived. Therefore, I didn’t get to talk with him yesterday. And, since this particular review always falls on Thanksgiving week, I’m spending my fourth Thanksgiving Day in Brussels, missing turkey in the States with family yet again.

 

In the evenings of this evaluation week, however, I do enjoy dinner out with other experts and my walks through the city to the Grand Place and the Royal Arcade. Hopefully tonight, the Christmas Market will be up and running! It’s 6:40PM so I need to get going and pack up my things for the night.

On Monday night I went out and I got to enjoy Moules et Frites at Lyon.

If you are capable and interested in serving as an expert evaluator, you can set up a personal profile in the Participant Portal (see instructions at https://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/docs/h2020-funding-guide/experts/experts_en.htm). When REA needs your expertise, they may well send you an invitation to serve.

 

Architects Love School, why not teach engineers a similar way?

When I started studying “higher education” as a PhD subject at William and Mary in 2006, I wondered why architecture students seem so engaged–passionate and persistent–and why engineering didn’t use the same methods that seem so “sticky” and engaging.

I’m still asking these questions.

I explore them in the article “Using Architecture Design Studio Pedagogies to Enhance Engineering Education” which I wrote with John Marshall, The University of Michigan 
and Gavin Duffy, Technological University Dublin. It has been published for a while, and I just noticed that since the embargo period has ended, I can direct you to the final version instead of just the pre-press version! It was published by the International Journal of Engineering Education. 

https://arrow.dit.ie/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1117&context=engscheleart2

The abstract explains:

“Problem-Based Learning pedagogies that require high levels of inquiry and hands-on engagement can enhance student learning in engineering. Such pedagogies lie at the core of studio-based design education, having been used to teach architects since the Renaissance. Today, design assignments and studio-based learning formats are finding their way into engineering programs, often as part of larger movements to implement Student-Centered, Problem-Based Learning (PBL) pedagogies. This spectrum of pedagogies is mutually supportive, as illustrated in the University of Michigan’s SmartSurfaces course where students majoring in engineering, art and design, and architecture collaborate on wickedly complex and ill-defined design problems. In SmartSurfaces and other similar PBL environments, students encounter complex, trans-disciplinary, open-ended design prompts that have timely social relevance.

“Analyzing data generated in studio-based PBL courses like SmartSurfaces can help educators evaluate and track students’ intellectual growth. This paper presents a rubric for measuring students’ development of increasingly refined epistemological understanding (regarding knowledge and how it is created, accessed, and used). The paper illustrates use of the tool in evaluating student blogs created in SmartSurfaces, which in turn provides evidence to help validate the rubric and suggest avenues for future refinement. The overall result of the exploratory study reported here is to provide evidence of positive change among students who learn in PBL environments and to provide educators with a preliminary tool for assessing design-related epistemological development. Findings of this study indicate design-based education can have powerful effects and collaborating across disciplines can help engineering students advance in valuable ways.”

DOI

10.21427/D7V62S

Keywords

Problem-Based Learning, Student-Centered Learning, Design-Based Learning, epistemology, architecture education, design studio pedagogy, engineering education, cognitive development

 

Focus on Student Development

Our new special focus journal is out!

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

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

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

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

Here’s the introductory statement:

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

Jonte Bernhard Anna-Karin Carstensen Jacob Davidsen Thomas Ryberg

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

Desen S. Ozkan Lisa D. Mcnair Diana Bairaktarova

Here’s an official overview of the issue:

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

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

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

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

Publishing Discount for SEFI Members

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Good news shining through a rainy day in London.

I was on the bus from London South Bank University this morning, headed to University College London when good news arrived, shining through an otherwise cold and rainy day. The Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of Engineering Education  (EJEE), Dr. Kristina Edström, forwarded me an email from the publishing house, Taylor and Francis, regarding costs for purchasing “Gold” level open access in the journal.

 

The change will enable SEFI members to save $500 off the cost of Gold access and the publishers will implement a change tonight–when they reboot their system. Information about the discount will then be included on the T&F web page for EJEE (although the T&F code for the journal is actually CEEE). Info about how to secure the discount will also be provided by the EJEE editors (Kristina, along with her deputy editors, Dr. Maartje van den Bogaard and Prof. Jonte Bernhard) when they send the formal acceptance email to authors.

SEFI–the European Society for Engineering Education—is the organising body behind EJEE. There are individual memberships available, but it’s more typical for an institution to join. Because I am affiliated with UCL and TU Dublin, which are both SEFI members, I am also a member of SEFI. There’s a full list of member organisation on the SEFI website.

Here’s what the publishers’ rep said:

Hi Kristina,

I hope that you are very well today.

I’m just picking up on your email to Rachel regarding the discounted APC for SEFI members and promoting this a bit more widely. I have added this information to the Instructions for Authors page under the Open Access heading, and to the Society Information page as below:

  • IFAs:image001
  • Society Informationimage002

These changes to the journal pages will go live overnight once our servers update. Do let me know if any tweaks to the wording are required. If it doesn’t appear already, it might be something worth advertising also somewhere on the SEFI website—do let me know if you would like T&F’s help with this.

For your reference, the relevant clause in the contract regarding this APC discount for SEFI members is screenshotted below:

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Please do not hesitate to get back in touch if there’s anything else I can help with.

All best wishes,
Jess

I’m glad I was able to help push this along, so SEFI members can realise savings. I stuck with this effort, first as a curious author, and second as a member of EJEE’s Editorial Board. I’m feeling today like I added a bit of value to the SEFI community.

Kristina celebrated with a Tweet letting the world know:

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img_2419As for my own article (the one I blogged about yesterday) I haven’t decided if I’ll upgrade to Gold. I’ve discovered there’s a 12-month embargo for the current access level I have (Green), and after 12 months I can post the official version of the paper. Perhaps the 50 free copies I’m allowed to give out will suffice until then, since most colleagues will have access to the article via their university libraries.

The full cost to obtain Gold access for my paper would be about €2395, according to an estimate I received from the platform a couple weeks ago. The $500 discount equates to €446, so the total cost for open access would still be head-spinning, at about €1950.

Yes, it’s true. Many people don’t know that authors typically must pay to publish their writing in top-notch journals. Fortunately, with EJEE, there’s no cost to authors if they go the Green route. However, for Gold (fully and immediately open) access to the public, there is a charge.

EJEE is pretty special in regard to offering Green access for free. The other top journals in the field of engineering education research (EER) charge. For the Journal of Engineering Education (JEE), organised by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), it costs the author around $60 per page to publish (and there isn’t a free route other than requesting a special exception for extenuating circumstances). I hope I can figure out how to pay the fee when I get an article accepted there.

Today, I’m celebrating small victories.

Marie Curie Alumni Association–2019 General Assembly

This year, for the first time, I attended the Marie Curie Alumni Association (MCAA) General Assembly. It was held at the University of Vienna at the end of February. I represented the newly founded Irish chapter. I’m also a member of the UK chapter, having served as a Marie Curie Research Fellow in both the UK and Ireland.

This was a great opportunity to learn about research other people are doing around the continent and meet researchers from all over the world. I have a new understanding of the slogan “Researchers on the Move” and I see how truly dynamic are the researchers who travel from country to country to help answer questions and solve problems. We learned support for researchers and we got to discuss the challenges and joys of being traveling researchers.

Today, I’m working with a prospective MSCA fellow to craft his application, and I’m using what I learned at the General Assembly. I’m encouraging him to attend if he’s selected as a grant recipient because its a great way to connect with resources and the research of others.

I’ve attached some photos of 2019 events and some of the Tweets I posted during the General Assembly.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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Meeting at the Bartlett with leaders of the Space Syntax group

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

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

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

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

12:00

 

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

13:20

Head up to Tuffnell Park to visit the PAMELA Lab.

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Meeting with Nick Tyler at the PAMELA lab

14:00

 

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

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

 

The Many Senses that Matter in Transportation Design

list of senses by nick tyler

Attending the 2019 opening session of “Design of Accessible Transport Systems” reminded me of the need for designers of all sorts to consider a wider array of senses than the five that normally come to mind. This postgraduate course/module is taught by my primary research supervisor, Professor Nick Tyler.

According to Nick, human senses can be psychological, as we normally picture, but they can also be environmental and interpretational.

Psychological

Psychological senses include the main five that we all recognize: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. But the list doesn’t end there. Far from it!

Other psychological aspects involve balance, proprioception (defined on Wikipedia as “the sense of the relative position of one’s own parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement), pain, vestibular awareness (having to do with vertigo), embodiment (essentially, seeing a person or thing as a clearly defined whole with clear boundaries), and temperature.

Environmental

Nick identified the following environment-related senses: rhythm, harmony, color, space, direction, pitch, time, and comfort. As an architect, I’m quite familiar with considering all these in the process of design.

Interpretational

Interpretational senses are even more subtle. They include the senses of self, ownership, justice, history, culture, politics, care, emotion, fear, wellbeing, safety, emotion, pride, responsibility, and symbolism. And, all clearly important to understand when designing anything for people.

During the class, meeting, Nick’s students practiced using tools to simulate various impairments, or as Nick calls them, different capacities.

Introducing PEARL

I had attended the class meeting to get another view of Nick’s research center at Tufnell Park, which is named PAMELA. This center will soon have a sister, named PEARL, as described by Nick in an email he distributed to his faculty last November:

November 19, 2018

Dear All,

Last Friday UCL Council approved the investment of £37.8M [37.8 million GBP]  in our PEARL facility (Person-Environment-Activity Research Laboratory), which will be a successor to PAMELA. This investment supplements a £9M [9 million GBP] contribution from BEIS, so the department will have the benefit of a new £47m [47 million GBP] research facility to add to its facilities in Gower Street and Here East. PEARL is the UCL component of the UKCRIC multi-university laboratory complex for research on Infrastructure and Cities.

PEARL will be a 9,500 m2 [square meter] facility, of which 4,000 m2 will be a laboratory space for building 1:1 scale environments and testing them with people — this means that we could have a 100m-long street, or a small town square, or a railway station with 4-carriage trains, station concourses etc. instrumented so that we can study in detail how people interact with such environments. The facility is available for use for transdisciplinary research and teaching where these require the use of big, instrumented, highly configurable space, and it will have a large and significant engagement with the local community.

PEARL will be located in Dagenham.

Huge thanks are due to Nigel Titchener-Hooker, who led the negotiations through UCL to secure this investment.

It is a massive vote of confidence in the department!

Yours,

Nick

Nick Tyler CBE FREng FICE FCIHT FRSA
Chadwick Professor of Civil Engineering
Director, UCL Centre for Transport Studies
UCL, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK
+44 20 7679 1562
@nicktyler4 @ucl-squared

Nick’s research is really making a difference–globally as well as right here in London– and I’m honored to have a first-hand view on some aspects of his work.

The two photos at the end of the gallery below explain more about PAMELA, and how to get involved as a participant in Nick’s research studies for people who live in or near London.

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

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

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

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

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View from my tenth-floor room of Celtic Manor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Special Focus on Diversity

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

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

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

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

Shannon teaching with Nataschu saturated

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

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

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

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

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

Articles in the Special Focus Issue

Description by guest editors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

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

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

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

Diverse researchers at your service!

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The campus of DIT Grangegoreman (soon to be TU Dublin) which is now under construction

I found myself surrounded today, by dozens of brilliant scholars. I’d been invited to speak at a workshop on Gender Equality held by the Irish Alumni Chapter of Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA). The half-day workshop was held in St. Laurence Church on the Grangegorman Campus of DIT.

Marie Curie fellows, past and present, traveled in from all over Ireland to attend the event. The Irish MSCA Alumni chapter is just two years old and it covers the whole of the island, welcoming researchers from north and south, east and west.

A lovely group of early-career researchers arrived in last night from Cork for the workshop, for instance. They came to Ireland from many different countries across Europe and beyond to work with the excellent researchers here.

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Dr. Chiara Loder, with Ireland’s MSCA office, helps researchers write winning proposals

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Dr. Geraldine Canny, the MSCA National Contact Point and Head of Ireland’s MSCA Office.

Dr. Amir Tabaković, a Strategic Research Proposal Coordinator housed in DIT’s Research Enterprise and Innovation Services office organized the event. Amir was formerly a Marie Curie Fellow to TU Delft in the Netherlands. Several other alumni assisted in organizing, including Dr. Declan Devine, the  Chair of Ireland’s MCA Alumni chapter who was a Marie Curie fellow–following his wife’s own MSCA fellowship. They have spent time doing research in Switzerland, the US, and now back home in Ireland.

The day’s line-up of speakers was both exceptionally accomplished and full of insight. We started with introductions by our hosts, Amir and Declan, and a talk by Dr. Geraldine Canny, who is Head of the Irish Marie Skłodowska-Curie Office and National Contact Point – H2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie Programme. She is responsible for the delivery of the office suite of application supports and also provides input into MSCA policy as a Programme Committee member. The program continued as follows:

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Jean Cahill, one of my mentors and heroes

I’ve included photos of many presentations. During the coffee break and post-workshop lunch, we got to socialize and network. I asked Jean Cahill–a Head of Research at DIT and one of the people who has helped me with writing various grants in the past–how many Marie Curie Fellows we’ve had at DIT. She rattled off five, and I was two of them! I think, for institutional records, I’m counted as an incoming MSAC Fellow (2014-2016) and an outgoing MSCA Fellow (2018-2020). The reason I’d asked Jean about this was that I had just met DIT’s newest incoming MSCA fellow, and she’s female. Interestingly, all the five fellows to DIT who Jean identified are female. The program is open to men and women alike, so the success rate for women applying to DIT is very high! I’ve always found DIT to be a very supportive environment. In fact, Jean and others like former National Contact Point Dr. Jennifer Brennan, helped me draft both of MSCA applications–going well above and beyond their job requirements and providing loads of pertinent advice that was crucial to my success in securing funds. For both of my MSCA applications, Professor Nancy Stenson and Dr. Marek Rebow helped with editing as well.

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Chatting with Professor Brian Bowe in DIT’s Rathdowne House

For today, Amir had asked me to talk about my experiences as a Marie Curie fellow and identify some gender aspects of my research work. I encouraged the audience to push beyond gender and seek inclusivity for all types of diversity. I asked them to promote wider considerations of diversity in European funding calls and evaluations, as well as in their own research. I asked them to consider publishing gender-related aspects of their findings in journals that reach more than one type of specialty audience and I provided examples. Then I described one of the research projects I’ve done as an MSCA fellow and the data analysis I have underway now that I will report via the Society for Research in Higher Education.

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Dr. Shanonn Chance with DIT’s Dr. Barry McCauley, an expert in BIM and Quantity Surveying

At the conclusion of the workshop, I met up with my former Fulbright and MSCA supervisor, Professor Brian Bowe. Then I walked from DIT Grangegoreman to DIT Bolton Street by way of our new path–which connects the two sites and takes just seven minutes to walk. There at Bolton Street, I returned a library book (Marton and Booth, 1997) and had a chat with Dr. Barry McCauley, who was serving as my temporary replacement but has since been appointed to a permanent full-time position of his own at DIT. I couldn’t be more pleased, as Barry is an excellent teacher and researcher and is excelling even while adjusting to his new prosthetics. Barry was injured on a construction site when he was 21 and his legs were crushed, but he has not let this stop him. He went on to get his Ph.D. and he’s a force to be reckoned with! We are lucky to have him at DIT; I really enjoyed learning Navis Works and CostX from him in prior years and he has done some very important research on uptake and implementation of BIM (Building Informational Modelling) globally.

If you are a researcher reading this who is interested in applying for a fellowship to come do research in engineering education at either DIT (soon to be TU Dublin) or at my other institution which is UCL, or in BIM implementation here at DIT, please contact me and I’ll help you write a grant proposal (IrelandByChance at gmail dot com).