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  1. Process safety has become a critical component of chemical engineering education. However, students may find it difficult to fully understand the ramifications of decisions they make during classroom exercises due to their lack of real world experience. Use of an immersive digital environment where students could role play as chemical engineering employees making process safety decisions could be one method of achieving this goal. Through this experience, students could observe the outcomes of their decisions in a safe, controlled environment without the disastrous real-world consequences that could come from making a mistake. This digital environment could have further features, such as time constraints or interactions with other characters, to make the experience feel more authentic than an in-class discussion or case study. In order to evaluate the efficacy of such a virtual environment, a portion of this work centered around the creation of the Engineering Process Safety Research Instrument (EPSRI). The instrument asks participants to evaluate process safety dilemmas and rank a set of considerations based on how influential they were in their decision-making process. The instrument then classifies each decision based on the stages of Kohlberg’s moral development theory, ranging from pre-conventional (i.e. more self-centered) thinking to post-conventional (i.e.more »more global) thinking. This instrument will be used to assess how students’ thinking about process safety decisions changes as a result of engaging in the virtual safety decision making environment. This paper will summarize the progress since the project’s start in summer 2017, highlighting the work completed in development and validation of the EPSRI. This process included content validation, think-aloud studies to improve clarity of the instrument, and factor analysis based on a large scale implementation at multiple universities. The paper will also discuss the development of the minimum viable product digital process safety experience, including establishment of learning outcomes and the mechanics that reinforce those outcomes. By presenting these findings, we intend to spread awareness of the EPSRI, which can evaluate the safety decisions of chemical engineering students while having the potential to launch discussions about safety and ethics in other engineering disciplines. We also hope that these results will provide educators with insights into how to translate educational objectives to elements of a digital learning environment through collaboration with digital media companies.« less
  2. Process safety is at the heart of operation of many chemical processing companies. However, the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has still documented over 800 investigations of process safety failures since the year 2000. While not all of these incidents were severe, some did lead to employee injuries or death and environmental harm. As a result, chemical engineering companies are increasingly dedicated to process safety through training programs and detailed vigilance as part of their operations practice. AIChE and OSHA also offer courses in process safety to help support the industry. These efforts illustrate the paramount importance that chemical engineering graduates have an appreciation and understanding of process safety as they transition from their degree program into industrial positions. Previous studies have shown that despite difficulties due to course load constraints, process safety has been incorporated into chemical engineering curriculum through either the addition of new courses, incorporation of the content within existing classes, or a combination of the two methods. A review performed in Process Safety Progress suggested that a key step for departments moving forward is to perform an assessment of the process safety culture within their institution in order to determine how faculty and students view process safety.more »An issue with completing this task is the lack of assessment tools that can be used to determine how students are developing their understanding of process safety decision making. This observation led to the development of the Engineering Process Safety Research Instrument (EPSRI). This instrument is modeled after the Defining Issues Test version 2 (DIT2) and the Engineering Ethical Reasoning Instrument (EERI). Similar to these instruments, the EPSRI provides dilemmas, three decisions, and 12 additional considerations that individuals must rate based on their relative importance to their decision making process. The dilemmas developed in the EPSRI are based on case studies and investigations from process safety failures that have occurred in industry to provide a realistic context for the decision making decisions that engineers may be faced with upon employment. The considerations provided after the scenario are derived to reflect pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional decision making thinking as described by Kohlberg’s Moral Development Theory. Pre-conventional decision making thinking focuses particularly on what is right/wrong or good/bad from an individual level, whereas post-conventional thinking seeks to determine what is correct from moral and value perspectives at the society level. This WIP paper describes the content validity study conducted while developing the EPSRI. Dilemmas were examined by context experts including professionals in the process industry, chemical engineering departments, and learning sciences field. Content experts reviewed the dilemmas and determined whether they represented accurate examples of process safety decision making that individuals may face in real-world engineering settings. The experts also reviewed the 12 considerations for each dilemma for their accuracy in capturing pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional thinking. This work represents the first step in the overall instrument validation that will take place over the next academic year.« less
  3. This research paper describes the development of a critical incident-centered analysis methodology based on Schlossberg’s Transition Theory to explore transitions experienced by engineering education researchers as they begin new faculty positions. Understanding the transition experiences of scholars aiming to impact change within engineering education is important for identifying approaches to support the sustained success of these scholars at their institutions and within engineering education more broadly. To date, efforts to better prepare future faculty for academic roles have primarily focused on preparing them to be independent researchers, to teach undergraduate courses, and to support their ability to advance their career. Research of early career faculty is similarly limited in scope, focusing mostly on new faculty at research-exclusive universities or on faculty member’s teaching and research practices. To address this gap in the literature, our research team is examining the role of institutional context on the agency of early career engineering education faculty as it relates to facilitating change. As part of this larger project, the focus of this paper is on the integration of critical incident techniques and Schlossberg’s Transition Theory to create “incident timelines” that explore the transition of early career engineering education researchers into new faculty positions. Ourmore »paper will illustrate how this integration provided an effective methodology to: 1) explore a diverse set of transitions into faculty positions, 2) identify critical events that impact these transitions, 3) isolate strategies that supported the faculty members in different aspects of their transitions, and 4) examine connections between events and strategies over time and across faculty members’ transitions. Transition Theory provides a lens to explore how individuals identify and adapt based on transitions in their lives. An individual’s transition, according to Schlossberg, tends to include three phases: moving in, moving through, and moving out. Over the course of those phases, the individual’s experiences are influenced by the context of the transition, the characteristics of the individual such as their motivations and beliefs, the extent to which they have support, and the strategies they utilize. Given the complexity of a transition into a faculty position, it was necessary to determine the extent to which particular events and the relationship between events impacted a new faculty member’s experience. To accomplish this, we integrated a critical incident analysis to specifically investigate individual events that were considered significant to the overall transition leading to the development of an incident timeline. We applied our approach to monthly reflections of six new engineering faculty members from diverse institutional contexts who identify as engineering education researchers. The monthly reflections asked each participant to provide their impressions of the faculty role, in what ways they felt like a faculty member, and in what ways they did not. Through an iterative data analysis process, we developed initial incident timelines for each participant’s transition. Follow-up interviews with the participants allowed us to explore each event in more detail and provided an opportunity for reflection-on-action by the participant. These incidents were then further explored to distinguish strategies used and support received. Finally, we examined connections between events and strategies over time to identify overarching themes common to these types of faculty transitions. In this methods paper, we will demonstrate the usefulness of this variation of the critical incident approach for exploring complex professional transitions by highlighting the details of our incident timeline analysis.« less
  4. Engineering faculty are faced with a variety of challenges ranging from teaching responsibilities, navigating research, and negotiating service demands. Due to the nature of the emerging field of engineering education and the emphasis on education within the ASEE community, there is a need to develop methods to facilitate cross-institutional mentoring. While many institutions offer formal mentoring in some capacity, there are limitations and challenges associated with these support structures. Some common challenges are scheduling a time to meet, navigating institutional power dynamics, and identifying individuals with shared interests and goals. This work proposes best practices for the development of an innovative peer mentoring structure that accounts for shared commitment to the advancement of engineering education. This paper will provide insight for engineering education faculty who are currently transitioning into or are planning to pursue a career in academia in the future. We will describe a framework to create a virtual community for peer mentoring. The value of a virtual peer mentoring community is that it can provide support that may not be available within one’s institution and it minimizes the negative impacts that may be associated with institutional power dynamics. The best practices that we will describe are informed bymore »six early career engineering education faculty that developed and participated in a virtual community over the last two years. We will describe best practices in relation to identifying a shared vision, developing possible tangible outcomes, writing operating procedures for the group, selecting an appropriate platform for communication, and facilitating reflection and changes to practice.« less