The Journey from Engineering Educator to Engineering Education Researcher
Eastman, Michael G.
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Abstract Despite favorable job-growth predictions for many engineering occupations(NSB, 2010), researchers and government agencies have described a crisis in education in the United States. Several simultaneous events have conspired to sound this alarm. First, when compared to other countries, the United States is losing ground in educational rankings, and research and development output and expenditures (NSB, 2014). Second, within the disciplines of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) the ranks of engineering education have been identified as one of the most unwelcoming, inequitable, and homogeneous (Johri & Olds, 2014). Third, engineering educators at the university level has historically been select individuals from the dominant culture considered to be content experts in their fields, but having little or no background in educational theory (Froyd & Lohmann, 2014). Researchers and government agencies have recently claimed the changing demographics and need for more engineers in the United States signal a need for revolutionary changes in the way engineers are prepared and the need for a more welcoming and collaborative environment in engineering education (Jamieson & Lohmann, 2012; NSF, 2014). Understanding how to improve the culture of engineering education is an important and necessary ingredient for addressing national concerns with engineering and innovation. My study seeks to explore the manifestation of the culture of engineering education in the experiences of five long-time engineering professors, who enrolled as part of a STEM PhD cohort, in a School of Education at a large research university in the northeastern United States. The overarching problem I will address is the persistent culture of engineering education that, despite decades of rhetoric about reform aimed at increasing the number of those historically underrepresented in engineering, continues to promote a hegemonic culture and has failed to take the necessary systemic steps to become more welcoming and more effective for all learners. This research involves the story, and the history, of an engineering education culture quick to identify the haves and the have-nots and dismissive of those individuals “not cut out” to become engineers. My study is driven by the following research questions: (1) What are engineering educators’ perceptions of teaching and learning? (2) In what ways, if any, have participant experiences with constructivism and social constructivism influenced espoused beliefs, perceptions, and enactments of teaching? (3) What may be potential strategies for shifting the culture of veteran engineering educators toward reflective teaching practices and equitable access to engineering education?