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  1. In this paper or poster presentation, we hope to present to and interact with our audience with respect to a key touchpoint in our national study of engineering education reform. Based on an NSF collaborative grant, our project team has conducted approximately 280 semi-structured interviews at over 40 different institutions with regards to change processes that operate within engineering education. Originally inspired by our earlier work on ABET, we framed our study around questions of governance, namely how national organizations and national conversations do and don’t shape changes in engineering education. However, our early interviews made it very clear that US engineering schools viewed themselves as participating in a competitive market, where local initiatives and innovations are as important if not more important to their student experience and institutional reputation. This said, market mechanisms and the way in which local innovations circulate (entrepreneurship, maker spaces, humanitarian engineering) are themselves a form of coordination, pointing to more subtle modes of governance that operate within engineering education. Drawing on the multi-theory framework of Austin and Jones’ for understanding Higher Education Governance (2015), we use this presentation to begin to tease apart the different modes through which change occurs within engineering education.
  2. When instructors change their classroom practices —shifting from lecture to active learning for example—there is a direct impact on student learning that is relatively straightforward to measure. However, every course is also part a curriculum that is developed by the faculty, often in line with a college or university’s present vision, and shaped by national values and policies surrounding engineering education and higher education. These factors have indirect but equally significant impacts on student learning, and constitute the larger ecosystem in which student learning takes place. These indirect effects are more difficult, and likely impossible, to fully understand. If the higher education system in the United States was more centrally governed by an educational ministry, as is found in Europe and elsewhere, it might be easier to understand and control the impact of these indirect factors. However, the highly decentralized system of educational governance within the U.S., and the great diversity of schools that are both the product and reasons for this ecosystem, have given rise to an extremely heterogeneous system. In the United States accreditation serves as one of the few, central mechanisms for shaping learning; it carries the weight of the state to the extent that it contributesmore »to job and federal loan availability as well as licensure in selected fields. This paper examines the historic and presentday impact of accreditation on engineering education in the United States.« less
  3. In this research paper, we analyze “diversity” discourses among faculty and administrators in engineering programs across the Unites States, and the initiatives deployed in the name of diversity. The recruitment and retention of women and “minorities” is a task of paramount importance in engineering programs, and higher education in general. However, despite continued efforts to diversify the student body, women and minorities have remained underrepresented in engineering departments. The rationale for increasing diversity in engineering education can vary, from industry arguments about “filling pipelines” for the labor force, to social justice arguments that everyone should have an equal opportunity for success, to cognitive diversity arguments that problems are solved more efficiently with diverse viewpoints. Furthermore, there is significant variation across institutions regarding who is prioritized under the “diversity” umbrella – some highlight women in general, others African American, Hispanic and Lantinx men and women, others target students of low socioeconomic status (SES). Finally, initiatives to address diversity also vary widely, from scholarship programs, to extracurricular activities, to integration of the needs and interests of excluded groups into coursework. This paper draws upon data collected as part of a multi-institutional research study entitled “The Distributed System of Governance in Engineering Education.”more »We use methods of discourse analysis to study how the term “diversity” is leveraged in different contexts to enact certain methods of recruitment and retention of particular populations.« less
  4. This work-in-progress paper presents preliminary findings on how the education of engineering ethics is justified by academic administrators and policymakers drawing from the data collected in a multi-institutional project called “The Distributed System of Governance in Engineering Education”. The project seeks to understand the practice of engineering education reform using ethnomethodological data collected from oral interviews at a variety of academic institutions and other organizations in engineering education. Investigations of effective strategies for ethical formation of engineering students have been continuously pursued in the engineering education community. Review of the literature on this topic results in not only identifying diverse approaches and conceptions of engineering ethics, but also a set of diverse rationales and contexts of justification for development and implementation of programs on engineering ethics. The students’ attitude towards ethical development is shaped by how the subject is delivered, e.g., use of “best practices” or conceptual clarity in the notion of ethics offered to them, as well as why it is taught. Institutions send a signal to students, even if they do not intend to, about the importance of ethics in the engineering profession by how and why they address this matter. The initial analysis of interview data frommore »over a hundred subjects from more than twenty universities demonstrates diverse ways of justifying ethics education such as satisfying ABET accreditation requirements or complying with recommendations of the disciplinary professional association (e.g., ASME or ASCE). Identifying a resistance to notions such as judgment, and in general, a disregard for engineering ethics in conversations on governance and educational decision-making are other preliminary findings of this work.« less
  5. This work-in-progress paper draws from the ongoing “The Distributed System of Governance in Engineering Education” project’s qualitative dataset. The Governance project uses an ethnomethodological approach to understand the practice of engineering education reform. The dataset contains oral interview data from both academic institutions and organizations with roles in engineering education governance such as ABET. The academic institutions in the study are representative of the range of engineering schools in US—research intensive, predominately undergraduate, private, public, MSI, etc.—and interview subjects span the administrative spectrum from faculty to department chairs to provosts. This work-in-progress uses this data set to probe two research questions: 1) To what extent, and how, do academic administrators and policy makers in higher education draw on insights from engineering education research (EER) in deriving policies and making decisions? 2) To what extent do the issues and challenges articulated by administrators match those articulated or identified by EER community? The initial analysis of interview data from over seventy subjects from fifteen universities was done from a symbolic interactionism perspective. Initial findings are that university administrators are generally not aware of engineering education and the engineering education research body of knowledge is not generally used in day-to-day decision making. Thismore »may be due to the fact the concerns expressed by administrators are often misaligned with EER priorities. The authors seek feedback on how to better understanding “invisible channels” through which EER findings may find their way into administrative decisions as well as other means by which EER influences governance processes other than through established administrative channels.« less
  6. Unlike medicine, the engineering profession establishes new standards for engineering education through a distributed system of governance that mirrors the distributed structure of the profession. In this paper, we present our preliminary findings resulting from early data collected through an NSF-sponsored study of this system. This qualitative study is multi-site and multiscale in its design, and will eventually draw on interviews with faculty and administrators, at different rank, from at least two-dozen different colleges and universities as well as engineering professional organizations. Our interview data is complemented by content analysis of archival documents and published studies, reports, and statements. This paper is designed to introduce our research questions and begin a conversation among engineering educators about how we govern our own educational system. The trends and observations noted in this paper are abstracted from our earliest results, and are described only in general terms. Future papers will explore each of our research questions more fully, taking into account more detailed data.