DBER - Evidencing Epidemic Change in Engineering Education

Evidencing Epidemic Change in Engineering Education

Funding: National Science Foundation Award #2105156

Project PI's: Drs. Heidi Diefes-Dux & Grace Panther

Amount and Years: $349,997, 2021 - 2024

Abstract: Engineering education lags behind some other science, technology, and math disciplines in the use of best teaching practices. University engineering faculty's adoption of such practices is a national priority because the expectation is that the use of best practices will result in more innovative and creative designs, a more diverse workforce, and students that are better prepared for their career. Use of a wide array of teaching practices and strategies (WATPS) have been shown to improve student outcomes and increase persistence in engineering, especially among underrepresented groups. Yet, many university engineering faculty continue to use traditional teaching methods, hindering the success of engineering students. This project is significant as COVID-19 spurred an unprecedented change to the way university faculty deliver their courses. Studying how faculty adapted their teaching practices under unprecedented conditions that forced them to change and whether they retain these changes and continue to grow as instructors is important for guiding the design of resources to help faculty adopt a WATPS. This project will contribute to the Research in the Formation of Engineers program by identifying the supports that a range of faculty need to promote the development of a capable and diverse engineering workforce. The objective of this project will be to investigate and document the effects of COVID-19 on engineering faculty’s teaching practices and sustained use of a WATPS relative to their adaptability and course complexity. This project is significant because it is the first comprehensive study exploring the impacts of a crisis-induced change and persistence of change to teaching practices through an adaptability framework. The overarching research questions are: How does course complexity, as indicated by the array of teaching practices and strategies and their associated challenge to implement, change during migration to a new normal following a forced change? What supports and barriers exist for instructors of differing adaptability given the courses that they teach? These research questions will be answered using a sequential mixed-methods approach that includes a combination of surveys, interviews, and teaching artifacts. This study will contribute fundamental knowledge on instructors’ adaptability and the changing complexity of instructors’ teaching practices and strategies when faced with the need to deliver courses differently. The proposed research will be novel and original in its use of adaptability theory to understand how an external motivator impacts faculty teaching at an R1 university. Outcomes from this work include a typology of teaching complexity, knowledge of instructor adaptability, and rich descriptions of course complexity trends. These outcomes will help inform a Program of Tiered Commitments that engineering colleges, departments, and faculty developers can use to support instructors’ adoption of best teaching practices