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Title: Why We Failed: Barriers to Participation, Management, and Sustainability of an Immersive Faculty Experience Supporting Graduate Student Professional Development
Failure analysis is central to the work of engineers, and yet we neglect to analyze our failures in the field of engineering education. In this paper, we examine our failure in the development and deployment of an immersive faculty experience for graduate students in engineering education. Professional development is a significant focus of graduate studies. Professional development broadly defined includes any activities supporting the acquisition of skills, knowledge, and abilities relevant to one’s current or desired position. In the context of graduate studies, professional development often involves such activities as conference or workshop attendance, internships or job exploration, mentoring or coaching directed at students, and certification programs. Despite the importance of professional development in graduate school, anecdotal and research-based evidence supports the assertion that graduate students experience professional development unevenly. Whether this unevenness results from intrinsic or extrinsic factors is not established. We investigate the barriers to participation in professional development, with a focus on an immersive faculty internship; however, this work revealed barriers associated with professional development in general and related to specific other types of professional development. We focus on barriers specifically because engineers examine both successes and failures in the effort to improve product design, and because our product—an immersive faculty experience for graduate students—was designed to overcome barriers identified during customary discovery research. For this analysis of failure, we rely on interviews and survey data from varied stakeholders (e.g., graduate students, their mentors, graduate program directors, representatives from grant-giving organizations, and faculty on hiring committees) to identify these barriers. We also share our personal reflections on the challenges associated with this effort. From the data collected from members of the engineering education community, we found that barriers to participation include time spent away from support systems, potential delays in graduation, lack of understanding of the value of professional development, and funding for participating in these opportunities. Graduate students perceive (rightly or wrongly) that their advisors do not support an immersive, off-site professional development experience, perhaps because advisors want graduate students to continue the work important to advisors or the advisors do not consider the experience valuable for cultivating the students’ professional identities. In addition, organizational challenges include facilitating a multi-site experience from a single institution that is subject to both institutional and NSF rules for budgeting. Stakeholders in graduate education have a significant interest in removing barriers to professional development, including opportunities like immersive internships. By doing so, they increase graduate students’ satisfaction with the graduate school experience and improve graduate students’ placement and career success. We connect our failure to both the concept of root cause failure analysis and the literature in organizational change. By doing so, we highlight how failure is an under-appreciated experience in the field of engineering education.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1743666 2013735
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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