Copenhagen to Athens to Kos: A hop, skip, and a jump from SEFI to ICL

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Copenhagen

Following last week’s meeting of the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI) in Copenhagen, I enjoyed a post-conference dinner with colleagues, explored Copenhagen’s old town in the morning, and then jetted off to Greece for a second international conference–this one on Interactive Collaborative Learning (ICL). I spent a day in Athens en route, inspiring a deep sense of awe! For an architect like me, visiting the Acropolis is a must, and the experience was even more uplifting than I’d expected. I loved Athens and I will certainly return!

The photo album in this post includes photos of the day I spent cycling around Kos with my colleague, Dr. Stephanie Ferrall, and also from my one-day layover in Athens. It also provides a glimpse into the conference events to show what the work of a traveling researcher really looks like.

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Athens

The highlight of the ICL conference was getting to know colleagues with similar interests. I particularly enjoyed getting to know the Portuguese and Sri Lankan delegations and the keynote speakers.

Presentations were interesting and informative and I’ve posted photos of Anuradha Peramunugamage (from Sri Lanka), Stephanie Ferrall (USA), Christina Aggor (Ghana), and Rovani Sigamoney (currently from France) presenting their work.

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Dr. Ferrall’s ICL keynote

Stephanie was a big reason I attended. I submitted a paper for this conference after seeing she was listed as a keynote speaker. Stephanie and I were research fellows in Dublin together at DIT during the academic year 2014-2015. Stephanie is a world expert in engineering education pedagogy and in supporting LGBTQ+ students. She is currently the national president of the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE). Her work focuses on inclusivity and “revolutionizing diversity” in engineering schools. Stephanie’s keynote speech at ICL focused on classroom diversity whereas the keynote she delivered the week before, at SEFI, described large-scale patterns and philosophies regarding diversity. At ICL, Stephanie was honored by the International Society for Engineering Pedagogy (IGIP) with its highest award, the Nikola Tesla chain.

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My ICL presentation

I was also drawn to this conference because much of my research has to do with engineering students’ experiences of collaborative learning and that is the core subject of the conference.

At the ICL conference, I presented one line of my analysis, a study of Middle Eastern women’s experiences studying engineering abroad in Ireland. I collected interviews with eight such women over a period of four years. You can download “Middle Eastern Women’s Experiences of Collaborative Learning in Engineering in Ireland” at this link: https://arrow.dit.ie/engschcivcon/109/. The citation for the paper is:

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

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Bike tour of Kos Island

As there were a few days free between SEFI and ICL, I’d gotten to spend time exploring Kos with Stephanie before the second conference. I posted some photos of us on Facebook with a notable but unanticipated effect. A colleague of mine from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the USA, Christopher Kochtitzky, took notice and reached out to connect with Stephanie since their goals for changing the world overlap.

img_0173Thus, one of my top accomplishments of this conference was connecting my colleagues from the CDC and ASEE. Soon Stephanie and Chris will be working together. They will connect engineering educators and students with the CDC’s new initiatives to increase physical activity across the US population and to improve public transportation, particularly with regard to accessibility. Stephanie will be able to tap into Chris’s experience and policy research and Chris will access Stephanie’s national contacts to help achieve CDC goals.

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On the Acropolis in Athens

The best surprise of my trip to Kos was meeting and getting to know Rovani Sigamoney from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). This organization does amazing work. UNESCO was created following WWII to help preserve cultural monuments, artifacts, and places. Today it seeks to get better educational opportunities to the world population and to improve living conditions. I’ve always admired UNESCO’s work but saw it as a big, far-away organization. Now I see ways I can contribute, and I’m getting straight to work! Thanks, Rovaini, for the fine job you’re doing with the engineering division!

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UNESCO’s Rovani Sigamoney

On the last evening of my trip, I dined alone. The waiters provided my favorite dessert, although it wasn’t on the menu, and they made it a gift. Shortly before that, I had snapped a photo of the Kos police station in the evening light (see the end of the photo gallery). Little did I know I’d be back at that station in the morning, to report that I’d dropped my purse.

Into every life, a little rain must fall, and in this case, my purse fell off the back of the e-bike I had rented to get around town on the last day. With the generosity of many different people, I managed to make my way back to London late Saturday night. Now I’m working to recover all those bank cards and government-issued photo IDs. Thankfully, though, I still have my health and my happiness and great memories of Copenhagen and Kos, and friends new and old.

SEFI—researching Engineering Education with the Europeans

img_9347I’ve just attended the world’s friendliest conference, the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI). I’ve never felt more welcome and invigorated by the exchange of ideas at a conference. This was my third SEFI, and while I’ve always felt incredibly welcome here, I now know people from all corners of the world by first name and they greet me likewise.

Last Sunday, I flew to Copenhagen from Nice, landing in the evening and traveling out to the campus of Denmark Technical University early Monday morning to help deliver an all-day workshop on research methods for PhD students. The workshop was coordinated by Prof. Jonte Bernhard, Dr. Kristina Edström, and Dr. Tinne de Laet. I also attended the conference’s opening ceremony and reception at Microsoft’s Danish HQ that evening.

img_9491Tuesday started bright and early with a keynote speech–delivered by Dr. Stephanie Farrell who was a Fulbright Fellow to Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) while I was a Marie Curie Fellow there. Although each morning started with a keynote lecture, for me, Stephanie’s was the most insightful of all. Attendees asked dozens of questions at the end, with another dozen people standing in line to ask questions afterward.

In all, there were three past DIT Fulbright Scholars at the conference–Stephanie, Dr. Sheryl Sorby, and me. The fact that three past DIT Fulbright scholars are still contributing to European EER on a regular basis and attending SEFI shows how a modest investment to support a Fulbrighter can pay dividends. We all still proudly represent DIT in various activities!

img_9308Following the Thursday morning keynotes, we enjoyed a fun new poster-presentation format. Poster authors got 30 seconds each to pitch their topic to the entire delegation, and then we went to visit their posters. This format raised the profile of posters as well as attendees’ interest in discussing them.

On this day, I also attended a session on writing for the European Journal for Engineering Education, got invited to serve on the journal’s Editorial Board by editors (Drd. Edström, Bernhard, and Maartje van den Bogaard), and networked with colleagues from Europe, North America, and Australia. Afterward, back in the city center, I enjoyed a lively dinner with editors from four different journals.

Working Groups were the focus on Wednesday, and I helped deliver a series of sessions of the Engineering Education Research (EER) Working Group, spearheaded by our leader Dr. Tinne de Laet. I’m a member of this group’s Governing Board, and since we meet monthly online, we didn’t need to conduct a business meeting here. In our morning session, each Board member briefly described her/his current projects. Participants each chose one Board member to join for small-group discussion. My small group discussed (1) tips for winning fellowship grants and (2) epistemology and identity topics related to EER. Later in the day, the Working Group ran a workshop where participants reviewed high-quality research papers and discussed their characteristics. During lunch and breaks–which were full of fascinating discussion with colleagues–I conferred with colleagues from Dublin Institute of Technology (Prof. Brian Bowe, Prof. Mike Murphy, Mr. Kevin Gaughan, Ms. Una Beagon, Ms. Diana Adele Martin, and Mr. Darren McCarthy) on plans to host an Inaugural Lecture at DIT this autumn. The lecture will be delivered by Dr. Bill Williams, who has just been appointed Adjunct Senior Researcher at DIT (upon my nomination–yay!). Since we intend to invite colleagues from other institutions, and particularly my colleagues from University College London, I worked to find an appropriate date and to identify the topics of Bill’s upcoming lecture and also the EER workshop he will conduct for our research group. Stay tuned for details!

img_9405After lunch, I attended a session on “Increasing the Impact of your Journal Publications” conducted by editors of the Journal for Engineering Education, Dr. Lisa Benson and Dr. Cindy Finelli. For dinner, the EER Working Group Board met in town.

Thursday morning, delegates attended presentations by individual scholars regarding their research projects. We used a range of formats including lecture, discussion, and flipped-classroom.

Over lunch, I worked with UCL colleagues, Ms. Emanuela Tilley, and Prof. John Mitchell, on strategic planning for a new Architectural Engineering curriculum we are developing. Throughout the conference, I enjoyed comparing notes with members of UCL’s Centre for Engineering Education who attended, including Emanuela, John, Dr. Inês Direito, Dr. Able Nayamapfene, and Ms. Paula Broome.

img_9380After lunch, I presented as part of the session “Reviewers! Reviewers! Reviewers!” In this session, editors of four journals explained what they are aiming to publish and how to write good reviews. I was representing IEEE Transactions on Education, the journal for which I am Associate Editor. We broke into small groups to identify characteristics of a good peer review and this was followed by a very insightful whole-group discussion.

After the workshop, I attended the Editorial Board meeting for EJEE, learning about our reach and impact from the publisher’s representative.

img_9440Late in the afternoon, everyone at the conference boarded buses for Copenhagen’s Experimentarium, a really fun science-learning center. I played with the educational exhibits alongside Stephanie’s family and other colleagues from DIT, UCL, and Fulbright. There was an awards ceremony, where our UCL colleague, Dr. Eva Soerensson was honored, and I thoroughly enjoyed the conference “gala” dinner. I sat with Belgian, Dutch, and British colleagues at dinner. We got a bit rowdy and ended up building towers from paper cups and discussing the feature of ubiquitous household appliances.

853e6054-964c-402e-b996-e9ee3e8191a1The final day of the conference had many individual poster and paper presentations, including a discussion session/presentation I delivered on patterns I’ve found among doctoral dissertations that have used phenomenology to study aspects of engineering education.

The closing ceremony for the conference was chaired by the incoming SEFI president, DIT’s Prof. Mike Murphy. We learned about the venue for next year’s conference, Budapest! Can’t wait!

img_9342I enjoyed dinner with close friends after the conference attendees dispersed. I got to explore Copenhagen a little on Saturday morning before flying off to a new conference in Greece.

Thanks to the whole SEFI crowd for a stellar week! See you in Hungry if not before!

Leading SEFI at the University of Birmingham, UK

Prof. Kamel Hawwash

Prof. Kamel Hawwash

Last week I travelled over to the UK to visit professor Kamel Hawwash, the incoming president of the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI).

Prof. Hawwash has done a great deal of  work in attracting and retaining diverse students in engineering, a topic known as “attractiveness” in the UK, and one in which I’m aiming to do more research.

Prof. Hawwash’s SEFI presidency will focus on two main topics:

1) employability and skills

2) attractiveness

We had much to discuss and we met for nearly two hours!  After our meeting, I had a chance to look around the University of Birmingham campus and then explore the city before flying back to Dublin via Ryanair.

Refining PBL in Setúbal, Portugal

Setubal logoI’ve been away from blogging to focus on my mini lecture tour.  I spent a week in Portugal and a week in Belgium visiting universities, meeting with students and educators, and sharing ideas about how to teach and learn effectively.

My first stop in Portugal was to an engineering program located a ferry ride from Lisbon.

My colleague Bill Williams teaches there. I had met Bill at the European Society for Engineering Education (SEFI) conference in Greece last September. Bill was born in Cork, Ireland. He teaches English to engineers, is working on a PhD, and does high-quality engineering education research. He helped coordinate my trip in a way that allowed me to visit five different campuses while I was in Portugal.  Bill seems to know everyone in Portugal who is doing research about how to educate engineers.

Bill hopes to get more people using active learning approaches in the classrooms at Escola Superior de Tecnologia do Barreiro – Instituto Politécnico de Setúbal so the two of us conducted a two-hour workshop on Project-Based and Problem-Based Learning.  Thirteen people came to learn about PBL, hear about methods in use at Dublin Institute of Technology and about research I’ve been doing at DIT, and work together to develop ideas for implementing PBL across one program at the institute in Setubal.

Bill and I hope those ideas will move from hypothetical to actual someday soon.

Today, I’m posting images that the institute’s photographer took of the event.  I have many more of the participants working in groups to explore the “problem” of how to implement PBL in Setubal.  I was thrilled to receive email from participants after the event via Bill — I was really impressed that they took time to say they enjoyed the workshop.

Engineering with the Greeks (and Irish, and Finns)

The Prezi presentation I delivered at SEFI.

SEFI attendees 2012 — I’m at the lower left.

The SEFI conference was one of the most fun conferences I’ve ever attended.  They claim to be a family and it certainly felt that way.  This was my first conference with engineers.  I suspect this special feeling of belonging may be specific to the European Society of Engineering Educators (SEFI).  It also helped in making me feel welcome that the whole Irish delegation claimed me as their own!

The Irish group included the Dean of our college at the DIT (Mike Murphy), a recent PhD who teaches at the institute of technology at Tallah (Eileen Goold), a lecturer from Trinity College (Kevin Kelley), and a scholar (Bill Williams) who has been working in Portugal for 18 years but hails from Cork (in Southern Ireland, near where my great grandmother set sail for Ellis Island). Also at the conference were Gavin Duffy and myself.

SEFI 2012 banquet — the Irish table, with friends from Spain.

Part of the reason I had so much fun at SEFI was that I knew a lot of people — or got to know them quickly. That’s because the Irish friendliness is contagious.  I couldn’t be the wall-flower I am at most conferences. Moreover, our Dean is really a great leader.  He knows everyone and he also know show to make people feel welcome.  The last night, after the conference dinner at the Hyatt, we all went for a beer in a quaint part of town.  A contingent of Finnish students came along with us.We sat outside in a gorgeous little plaza. When I say that Mike is a great leader, this evening provides an illustration.  Mike wanted to sing Irish pub songs and he managed to convince us all to sing despite our initial reluctance.

The Finns shared their songs and we found a few tunes everyone knew (What Can You Do With a Drunken Sailor and the ever-popular Bring Me Home Country Roadwhich is of course, about West Virginia, the state one half hour’s drive from my hometown).

Drs. Eileen Goold and Mike Murphy

We sang until the pub closed at 2 PM.  I’m quite sure the neighboring residents were glad to hear The singing stop.  On this particular evening, few of us could carry a tune. This level of zest is something I would never have endorsed in an American group… but when with the Irish, do as the Irish do!

During the conference, Gavin and I both made successful presentations.  I was the sixth presenter in my set, so I had to super-charge my presentation.  The audience was visibly drowsy when I stood up to present so I worked to energize the room. And I achieved a high level of engagement from most everyone.

At SEFI, I met a load (as the Irish would say) of interesting folks.  I even spent an entire lunch hour talking one-on-one with the current president of SEFI, Prof. Dr. Wim Van Petegem.  What an honor!

Perhaps I’ll be able to coordinate visits to universities in Belgium, Portugal, and Spain where I’ve made new connections.  All of them have Fulbright offices that may be able to help.

The plaza with our favorite watering hole… in the short brick building to the right. Much quieter the morning after our raucousness!