I met my PhD supervisee, Sandra, online just as the sun was coming up this morning. Thankful that she’s well on track, I got down to work, whipped up a conference abstract and got it submitted for tonight’s deadline.
Then I settled in for an intense day of paper editing. I was finalizing my team’s major revisions — our big December 18 deadline will be here far too soon. And with other deadlines looming large overhead, I took the long open stretch on my schedule today to make substantial progress.
I forgot my gym class. I forgot to eat lunch.
But while my head was under the sand, two very welcome emails landed in my box. The first I’ve been awaiting since last spring, but our university processes are slow. I’ve been assigned to teach in the school where my passion lies (still at TU Dublin, just in a different school as mine was dismantled).
I’ll now be teaching in the School of Architecture, Building and Environment which is great because I really love teaching students architecture. I’ll still teach BIM topics, too, of course.
The second incoming message was a bit of thanks from a researcher who used the advice on my blog and won herself an MSCA Marie Curie fellowship this year! I couldn’t be prouder than to help make this type of difference in someone’s life.
So, goals big and small came to fruition today. These emails reported life-changing news for me and for Diana.
With no time to rest on my laurels, I had to wrap up my replies fast, and run out to buy groceries for dinner. We’re having a younger friend over to discuss financial planning, a new hobby of mine.
Life is busy, but full of interesting new challenges. Lots to fill you in on over the coming weeks!
I collected interviews for this project with civil engineers recruited by Engineers Without Borders UK (EWB-UK). Dr Inês Direito helped with interviews and data analysis and Professor John Mitchell helped us with editing.
I haven’t been blogging much during the pandemic, as I spend far too many hours sitting in front of a computer monitor for things that must be done. Hours for hobbies like blogging just weren’t available – my eyes and thighs couldn’t take more. Moreover, since I posted advice and examples of Marie Curie final reports and applications there has been a deluge of visitors to those pages and posting more would cause those visitors confusion.
But, the traffic slowed down this year after the 2021 deadline for applications. You can see the cliff edge, where traffic dropped off, in the image to the left, below. These web materials were heavily visited in 2020 as well as 2021, as shown to the right, and I anticipate MSCA applicants will return for the 2022 application cycle.
In any case, I’m delighted with having over nine thousand visitors this year!
Most visitors came from my home (USA) and host (Ireland and the UK) countries, but I also reached people far away!
It’s time to update you! And, as I’m currently preparing to put my best foot forward in a local interview, it’s also a good time to reflect on what I’ve accomplished in the past four years:
Marie Curie Research Fellow and Visiting Professor at UCL
Programme Chair for the TU Dublin’s BSc (Honours) in BIM (Digital Construction)
Governing Body member and Chair of the Research in Engineering Education Network (REEN)
Guest editor for three special focus journal issues
Journal Associate Editor, Editorial Board member, and mentor for new reviewers
Author of multiple publications, having collected data for additional new publications as well
International speaker and workshop coordinator
Licensed Architect with up to date CPD
Supervisor and mentor for emerging researchers, appointed Senior Fellow of the (UK) Higher Education Academy
Blogger sharing examples to build human capacity in research and research-informed teaching
Manager of a portfolio of funded projects
In this post, I’ll tell you a bit about the first two items. Hopefully, I can detail other items in subsequent posts — so examples are fresh in my mind come interview time!
After successfully completing a two-year Marie Cure individual fellowship at UCL, I returned to Dublin, but I have kept my networks and collaborative activities at UCL going strong. The fellowship opened so many new doors for me — it exposed a new world of opportunities. My host institution, a global powerhouse in research and in engineering education as well as architecture education, provided an ideal place to grow new knowledge and skills. The fellowship’s generous training/travel budget, plus the exciting assignments UCL sent me on (e.g., leading two Master Classes in South Africa), helped extend my network into many new regions. Even today, nearly two years after leaving the UCL campus, I work daily with my UCL colleagues. As Visiting Professor, I attend online lectures and research sessions, provide leadership on research and gender issues, and engage in collaborative projects. Today, UCL Consultants pays half my salary, straight to TU Dublin, to provide me time to develop curricular materials for a brand-new degree programme in Architectural Engineering. This curriculum development work has been challenging, but also incredibly interesting and rewarding.
Just a month after returning to Dublin and just a month before the pandemic came crashing in, I accepted the role of Programme Chair for TU Dublin’s BSc (Honours) in BIM (Digital Construction) and launched that programme. I had an amazing Dean, but the two layers of supervisors between the Dean and me (as Programme Chair) were vacant for over half a year and so I learned quite a range of new skills. As my new line manager pointed out to me yesterday, I left my own personal stamp on the programme as it developed. Thankfully, he described this as a positive! Developing the structure and content of the “Research Methods” and “Work-Based Learning” modules for this BSc has been particularly rewarding. The “Honours” part of the programme name indicates that the students must complete a research thesis to graduate, and we’ve done an impressive job guiding the students to topics where doing research will benefit them, their careers, and the organizations where they work. We graduated our first cohort and have a second nearing completion. The tough part of this role, for me, is keeping up with technologies and standards that evolve so fast.
In upcoming posts, I look forward to reflecting on REEN, journal, and mentoring work. But for now, I’d better get back to my “To Do” list!
The publication process is often slow and suspense-ridden. I submitted the first draft of this paper at the start of March 2020, and now, just 15.75 months later, we’re nearly in print! The first step is digital release, and paper copies will come later.
Chance, S., R. Lawlor, I. Direito, and J. Mitchell. 2021. “Above and Beyond: Ethics and Responsibility in Civil Engineering.” Australasian Journal of Engineering Education. [Taylor & Francis Online]
University College London paid the Open Access publication free, so that you can download and read this article for FREE, without any special library access. My co-authors and I started this project at the request of Engineers without Borders UK, as the organization’s CEO, Katie Cresswell-Maynard, wanted to assess engineers’ perceptions and experiences related to “global responsibility”.
We prepared this specific report in response to a call for papers on ethics in engineering education and practice. To support the study of ethics, extracted data from our interviews that had to do with the topic, and studied it for patterns. As such, we’ve called this an exploratory study, on a topic where little prior research has been done.
Here’s the abstract:
This exploratory study investigates how nine London-based civil engineers have enacted ‘global responsibility’ and how their efforts involve ethics and professionalism. The study assesses moral philosophies related to ethics, as well as professional engineering bodies’ visions, accreditation standards, and requirements for continuing professional development. Regarding ethics, the study questions where the line falls between what an engineer ‘must do’ and what ‘would be good to do’. Although the term ethics did not spring to mind when participants were asked about making decisions related to global responsibility, participants’ concern for protecting the environment and making life better for people did, nonetheless, demonstrate clear ethical concern. Participants found means and mandates for protecting the health and safety of construction workers to be clearer than those for protecting society and the natural environment. Specific paths for reporting observed ethical infringements were not always clear. As such, analyses suggest that today’s shared sense of professional duty and obligation may be too limited to achieve goals set by engineering professional bodies and the United Nations. Moreover, although professional and educational accreditation standards have traditionally embedded ethics within sustainability, interviews indicate sustainability is a construct embedded within ethics.
I want to wholeheartedly thank the research participants and the co-authors who stuck by my side and helped see this project to fruition. It was great to have an ethicist on board in authoring this paper, Dr. Rob Lawlor. It has been a joy to work with him, and with Dr. Inês Direito and Professor John Mitchell, throughout this project. We also enjoyed a helpful and astute advisory panel comprised of Professor Nick Tyler, Jon Pritchard, Dr. Rob Lawlor, and Katie Cresswell-Maynard. The study was supported financially by a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions fellowship from the European Union (H2020-MSCA-IF-2016, Project 747069, DesignEng), with additional support provided to Engineers without Borders UK by the Royal Academy of Engineers.
Most days, I find myself communicating with colleagues from afar on various projects, proposals, and ideas. On a typical day, I hear from Dr. Inês Direito in London (UK), Dr. Lelanie Smith in Pretoria (South Africa) and Dr. Carlos Efrén Mora Luis in Tenerife (Spain). We have many overlapping interests–one being how to understand student motivations and emotions and how to use this understanding to help students tackle and persist through challenges. I often hear from our co-author Dr. Bill Williams, from outside Lisbon (Portugal) as well.
In addition to engineering motivations, we are also all interested in sustainability — environmental, economic and social. So over the past few weeks, WhatsApp and Signal chats have been rich and frequent.
Today alone, Lelanie, Inês, and I discussed research plans. Inês, Bill, and I submitted a conference paper on Brexit (with Inês in the lead and comments from Bill and me). Inês and I refined a journal manuscript on engineering ethics (with me in the lead and verbal input from Inês — she will edit my current version in the morning).
Down in the Spanish Canaries, Carlos has been fighting sand storms, as dust from the Sahara Dessert enveloped the islands. The weekend’s sandstorms were one of a number of challenges he’s faced recently, but he’s never one to give up.
Carlos and I didn’t win the grant we applied for this past September, despite having put months into the proposal. We’ve picked ourselves up, brushed off the disappointment, and developed a plan to perfect and resubmit. I know all too well that resubmitting makes a world of difference! It’s the best way to win funding. Yesterday, I was rallying our troops, gathering support for a new round of work. I am confident that eventually we will succeed.
But we haven’t been sitting around waiting for success to come.
In December, Carlos submitted an additional grant proposal, this one to the Cabildo of Tenerife, Spain, for €56,000. He received funding for the project titled “INGENIA.” Carlos explained to me that the word “Ingenia” comes from “Ingenio,” which is “Ingenuity” in English. So the project is fostering “Ingenuity” to support sustainability education.
I’m honored that (as a result of me coaching him on how to write grant proposals) he included me as a co-PI.
On the 31st of January, Carlos and his colleagues in Tenerife launched his extremely well-designed INGENIA project. It was a true thrill when over 300 people attended his launch that Friday!
Carlos has summarized in English that “INGENIA wants to show that students can find sustainable solutions to real life problems linked to SDGs in Tenerife.” Students will build their own research teams and find a supervisor who will help manage the financial resources for their project.” In other words, the students “will have to find relevant problems and then propose solutions. The final part of the process is selling their solutions to companies and administrative public offices.”
Students will engineer their solutions and compete for funding to realize their projects. Below, I’ve included information that Carlos wrote to described the project, which is being conducted in Spanish. I can understand a bit by reading the Spanish materials he produced, but he was kind enough to translate for me/us!
The Spanish public universities agreed recently contributing to the 2030 Agenda by building and transferring knowledge and skills to society about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Universities can contribute with teaching, learning, and student-participation methods to transfer not just the skills, but the motivation needed to face the SDGs. Like other Spanish higher education institutions, University of La Laguna (ULL) endorsed the United Nations (UN) SDGs initiative, and has a detailed understanding of the importance of its local problems linked to the environmental, social, and economical sustainability of the Canary Islands.
INGENIA is a project coordinated by ULL that is focused on the needs of the local society in the Canaries that supports building knowledge and skills on the participating students. INGENIA uses Project-oriented Problem Based Learning (PoPBL) learning strategies to motivate the students to find and propose solutions to real problems linked to the SDGs around their own environment.
Train university and high school academic staff in using active learning strategies to impulse SDGs.
Educate postgraduate students, and academic staff, in facilitating techniques and strategies to guiding students in complex projects linked to SDGs.
Develop real student projects with a high potential for positive impact in the Canarian society.
INGENIA will be implemented in three stages:
Informative and training actions. Informative actions will include a conference to be held at ULL in its theatre showing how students can change the world. Training actions will include workshops with specialists in Engineering Education focused on PBL and the evaluation of the impact of student projects. Goal: Get teachers motivated to help students in writing their proposals. Each of these teachers will also serve as guarantors for a team of students, and guarantors will assume the financial responsibility of the projects they back.
Training of facilitators. A group of postgraduate students will receive specific training for PBL, Motivation, Conflict Management, and Project Management. Facilitators will collaborate with guarantors in guiding the student teams. Goal: Having at least one facilitator for each wining proposal.
Project development: INGENIA will include a call for proposals. Student teams must justify the relevance of the problem and the feasibility of their solutions. Winning teams will receive funding for their projects, and must execute their projects within two months. At the end of this period, each team will write a report to identify the impact of their solutions. Students will participate in a public exhibition in October 2020, and will also have the opportunity to show their solutions to companies and public institutions with the aim of getting additional funding to continue their projects.
Carlos explained that the 31st was a day full of feeling. One of the speakers told such a moving story that the audience shed tears of emotion. Specifically, two students described their experiences; the second of these is working with ‘invisible’ people, meaning people who appear in social statistics, but have no work, no home, and thus no address. Carlos said she did an excellent job transmitting her feelings. She said, for instance, “that one day, she cooked rice for homeless people, but she was so busy that she forgot to turn off the cooking plate.” The rice was damaged, but she salvaged and packed up as much rice us she could, and went to give it to people in the street in Tenerife. She gave a portion to one man, and stayed looking at him. As the man was eating that rice, he stopped, looked at her eyes, and said what a lovely smile she had.
When she finished her narrative at the launch, one retired professor raised his hand to say something, but when he tried to start broken into tears. He cited numbers — the number of people invisible to all of us — and then he said that he had lived this experience along with her, and that she had touched his heart. The student walked down from the stage and gave the professor a big embrace. All the assistants, students, and teachers in the audience started to applaud.
It is this sort of change Carlos hopes to inspire among more students, and this is the sort of communication I received from Carlos daily.
After the student’s talk, many people were in tears, including Carlos. But he couldn’t stop to weep: he was next up on the stage.
Carlos needed to explain details of the program and how it will run. He had to explain the schedule and what will be expected of the various people working together in teams — including the student team members as well as the post-graduate and faculty member (e.g., professors) advising each team.
Carlos said the event was so motivating, inspiring them all to go out and find problems to solve. He received oodles of questions from students and academics wanting to participate. He said “Yes, I still can’t believe it, but something positive happened today!”
I have included images that are copyright of the photographer, Emeterio Suárez Guerra, and used with permission of Carlos.
I’m posting a cheerful reminder to those interested in engineering education research that important deadlines are coming up for manuscripts on ethics and SEFI conference papers. These are great activities to get involved with!
Research papers shall present original studies in the field of Engineering Education Research. Authors may follow the standards for good practices in EER. Please add the names of the authors in the relative fields and add the abstract in the text field. The text shall NOT contain the names of the authors neither references, in order to ensure a double-blind review process.Please do not upload any file at this stage of submission.When preparing your abstract, you are kindly asked to consider the review criteria on the conference website.You can upload a full paper after your abstract is accepted. Maximum length of abstract: 250 wordsDeadline: 2nd Mar 2020, 02:00:00am CET, Time left: 8 days 14 hoursChair contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
My 24-month research fellowship at UCL has come to a close. December opened with farewell activities, end-of-year gatherings and conferences, holiday parties and goodbye events.
When work finished for the year, Aongus and I enjoyed the sights and sounds of London for Christmas. And, around New Year’s Day, we took to packing for our move back to Dublin.
I’ve included photos of a farewell breakfast (with my PhD student, Thomas Empson and co-supervisor Sushma Patel) with breath-taking views over London, special visitors, a December conference in Coventry for the UK-Ireland Engineering Education Network, the “leaving-do” hosted on my behalf by UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education, and some general holiday fun.
In wrapping up, I also delivered a lunchtime seminar at UCL about the research I’ve conducted and/or published over the past two years. You can view the Prezi I delivered here.
It’s been a whirlwind, but I have now moved back to Dublin and resumed my job teaching at TU Dublin (known as DIT when I left for the Fellowship). I’ve got plenty of fun new challenges on the horizon to keep me busy and always learning.
And, thankfully, Aongus has gotten a transfer from his company and will follow me over to Dublin soon!
PhD Breakfast from the Darwin Brasserie atop the “Walkie Talkie”
Colleagues visiting from South Africa
UK-Ireland Engineering Education Research Network conference
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
“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.”
Chance, S., Marshall, J. and Duffy, G. (2016) Using Architecture Design Studio Pedagogies to Enhance Engineering Education. International Journal of Engineering Education Vol. 32, No. 1(B), pp. 364–383, 2016. doi:10.21427/D7V62S
Problem-Based Learning, Student-Centered Learning, Design-Based Learning, epistemology, architecture education, design studio pedagogy, engineering education, cognitive development
Monday: Technical graphics
Teaching architecture students about sun angles at Hampton University, circa 2007.
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.
“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.”