Scholarly Works, Engineering Education

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Research articles, presentations, and other scholarship


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  • Lessons Learned: Implementing Equitable Teaming Practices in First-year GE Courses
    James, Matthew B.; Chowdhury, T. M.; Ortega-Alvarez, J. D.; Benning, Jennifer L.; Van Tyne, Natalie C. T.; Lo, Jenny L. (2023-06-25)
  • Teaching Complex Introductory Concepts in a Sophomore Circuits Course: A Descriptive Case Study
    Pitterson, Nicole (MDPI, 2023-10-10)
    This descriptive case study explores the teaching and learning of complex introductory circuit concepts in a compulsory sophomore circuits’ course. The study investigates the instructional strategies employed by the instructor to facilitate students’ understanding of intricate circuit phenomena. Data were collected through classroom observations, interviews with the instructor, and an analysis of the course documents. The findings shed light on the challenges encountered by students when grappling with introductory circuit concepts, the effectiveness of different instructional methods, and implications for curriculum design and pedagogical approaches in electrical engineering education. Specifically, the instructors reported students’ prior knowledge, the nature of the content, and the structure of the course itself as some of the main features that impact students’ overall learning of the content. The study highlights the importance of providing targeted support and scaffolding to students, promoting active learning strategies, and incorporating practical applications to enhance the comprehension of introductory circuit concepts in sophomore-level electrical engineering courses.
  • Comparing Self-Report Assessments and Scenario-Based Assessments of Systems Thinking Competence
    Davis, Kirsten A.; Grote, Dustin; Mahmoudi, Hesam; Perry, Logan; Ghaffarzadegan, Navid; Grohs, Jacob; Hosseinichimeh, Niyousha; Knight, David B.; Triantis, Konstantinos (Springer, 2023-03)
    Self-report assessments are used frequently in higher education to assess a variety of constructs, including attitudes, opinions, knowledge, and competence. Systems thinking is an example of one competence often measured using self-report assessments where individuals answer several questions about their perceptions of their own skills, habits, or daily decisions. In this study, we define systems thinking as the ability to see the world as a complex interconnected system where different parts can influence each other, and the interrelationships determine system outcomes. An alternative, less-common, assessment approach is to measure skills directly by providing a scenario about an unstructured problem and evaluating respondents' judgment or analysis of the scenario (scenario-based assessment). This study explored the relationships between engineering students' performance on self-report assessments and scenario-based assessments of systems thinking, finding that there were no significant relationships between the two assessment techniques. These results suggest that there may be limitations to using self-report assessments as a method to assess systems thinking and other competencies in educational research and evaluation, which could be addressed by incorporating alternative formats for assessing competence. Future work should explore these findings further and support the development of alternative assessment approaches.
  • Examining the Setting of Significant Learning Events during the Engineering School-to-Work Transition
    Lutz, Benjamin; Paretti, Marie C. (MDPI, 2023-08-26)
    The school-to-work transition is a critical time for engineers that involves rapid learning across multiple fronts, but relatively little is known about the setting (i.e., how, where, and with whom) of significant learning experiences during this time. The purpose of the study is to examine the setting of significant learning events for recent engineering graduates. We used a multi-case study in which 12 recent engineering graduates responded to weekly reflective journal prompts for the first twelve weeks of their transition from school to work. Participants described significant learning events through a series of open-ended questions. We used both deductive and inductive coding to identify the setting of the event in terms of how, where, and with whom engineers engaged in learning at work. The findings highlight the emergent, social nature of workplace learning and point to critical differences across school and work. To better prepare students for professional practice, engineering educators should consider how they might create learning environments that promote effective transfer of knowledge and skills.
  • Spectrum of Modularity: An Alaskan Case Study of Modular Housing Types
    Nicewonger, Todd; Fritz, Stacey; McNair, Lisa D.; Tinsley, Ryan; Armstrong, Taj (2023-08-16)
    To communicate and utilize research of different options for Alaskan housing, a framework for comparison is necessary. The design work in this document attempts to unify our language and model for approaching modularity in housing by using a set of visual guides to compare variables and characteristics of different housing styles.
  • Resiliency through partnerships: Prioritizing STEM workforce pathways amid macro challenges
    Mathieson, Danny; Cotrupi, Catherine; Schilling, Malle; Grohs, Jake (Wiley, 2023-03)
    Multi-institutional educational partnerships are a promising approach to developing the skilled technical workforce. Inexorably, the ability to maintain such partnership networks that support skilled technical workforce education was disrupted by COVID-19. The purpose of this study is to explore Southwest Virginia's science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-focused multi-institutional partnership networks, to inventory the disruptive impacts of COVID-19, and to identify how partnership stakeholders navigated these challenges to prepare students for the skilled technical workforce. This work presents a single-case study design, highlighting the evolving landscape of STEM workforce education partnership networks in Southwest Virginia throughout the pandemic. The team conducted interviews with 19 regional stakeholders focused on the participants' role throughout the pandemic, barriers to STEM workforce education presented by public health and economic factors, and innovative strategies to sustain and expand partnership networks through COVID-19. Two key themes emerged from this study: successful partners maintained network connections through adaptive interactions and actors within the network served as brokers to leverage their connections and expand partnerships in the face of adversity. By taking a contextual view of the role of partnership networks in creating equitable STEM workforce pathways during COVID-19, we develop rich insights into partnership formation, collaboration, resource allocation, and programming amidst challenges to their success.
  • Person-centered analyses in quantitative studies about broadening participation for Black engineering and computer science students
    Reeping, David; Lee, Walter C.; London, Jeremi S. (American Society for Engineering Education, 2023-05)
    Background: There have been calls to shift how engineering education researchers investigate the experiences of engineering students from racially minoritized groups. These conversations have primarily involved qualitative researchers, but an echo of equal magnitude from quantitative inquiry has been largely absent. Purpose: This paper examines the data analysis practices used in quantitative engineering education research related to broadening participation. We highlight practical issues and promising practices focused on "racial difference" during analysis. Scope/Method: We conducted a systematic literature review of methods employed by quantitative studies related to Black students participating in engineering and computer science at the undergraduate level. Person-centered analyses and variable-centered analyses, coined by Jack Block, were used as our categorization framework, backdropped with the principles of QuantCrit. Results: Forty-nine studies qualified for review. Although each article involved some variable-centered analysis, we found strategies authors used that aligned and did not align with person-centered analyses, including forming groups based on participant attitudes and using race as a variable, respectively. We highlight person-centered approaches as a tangible step for authors to engage meaningfully with QuantCrit in their data analysis decision-making. Conclusions: Our findings highlight four areas of consideration for advancing quantitative data analysis in engineering education: operationalizing race and racism, sample sizes and data binning, claims with race as a variable, and promoting descriptive studies. We contend that engaging in deeper thought with these four areas in quantitative inquiry can help researchers engage with the difficult choices inherent to quantitative analyses.
  • Advancing Sustainable Development: Emerging Factors and Futures for the Engineering Field
    Burleson, Grace; Lajoie, Jason; Mabey, Christopher; Sours, Patrick; Ventrella, Jennifer; Peiffer, Erin; Stine, Emma; Stettler Kleine, Marie; MacDonald, Laura; Austin-Breneman, Jesse; Javernick-Will, Amy; Winter, Amos; Lucena, Juan; Knight, David B.; Daniel, Scott; Thomas, Evan; Mattson, Christopher; Aranda, Iana (MDPI, 2023-05-11)
    This study set out to identify emerging trends in advancing engineering for sustainable development, supporting the engineering workforce to address wicked problems, and strengthening pathways between engineering education, industry, and policy. The following question guided this work: What are the emerging factors impacting the future of global sustainability efforts within engineering, and how can these be amplified to increase the impact of engineering for sustainable development? Using an adapted Delphi method with surveys, focus groups, and member-checking interviews, we hosted the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) 2022 Engineering Global Development (EGD) Stakeholder Summit. The summit convened industry leaders, innovators, and academics to explore emerging factors impacting the future of global sustainability efforts in engineering. This manuscript synthesizes emerging trends and proposes recommendations for engineering, particularly in the specific focus area of engineering for sustainable development (e.g., ‘humanitarian engineering’, ‘global engineering’). Critical recommendations include the adoption of emerging cultural mindsets, which include: (1) take an interdisciplinary and multi-stakeholder approach, (2) consider dynamic and interconnected systems, (3) increase humility and intercultural competence, (4) prioritize diversity and inclusion, (5) increase localization and center community perspectives, (6) challenge the perception that engineering is neutral, and (7) broaden the goals of engineering. Ultimately, this study highlights pathways forward for the broader engineering community to more effectively contribute to advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Project-Based Learning Promotes Students' Perceived Relevance in an Engineering Statistics Course: A Comparison of Learning in Synchronous and Online Learning Environments
    Huang, Wen; London, Jeremi S.; Perry, Logan A. (Routledge, 2022-11)
    Understanding statistics is essential for engineers. However, statistics courses remain challenging for many students, as they find them rigid, abstract, and demanding. Prior research has indicated that using project-based learning (PjBL) to demonstrate the relevance of statistics to students can have a significant effect on learning in these courses. Consequently, this study sought to explore the impact of a PjBL intervention on student perceptions of the relevance of engineering and statistics. The purpose of the intervention was to help students understand the connection between statistics and their academic majors, lives, and future careers. Four mini-projects connecting statistics to students' experiences and future careers were designed and implemented during a 16-week course and students' perceptions were compared to those of students who took a traditional statistics course. Students enrolled in the experimental group (a synchronous learning experience) and the control group (an online learning experience) were sent the same survey at the end of the semester. The survey results suggest that the PjBL intervention could potentially increase students' understanding of the usefulness of statistics and effectively enhance their perceptions of belonging to the engineering community. This study summarizes the results of this PjBL intervention, the limitations of the research design, and suggests implications for improving future statistics courses in the context of engineering.
  • Undergraduate students' knowledge outcomes and how these relate to their educational experiences: a longitudinal study of chemistry in two countries
    Ashwin, Paul; Blackie, Margaret; Pitterson, Nicole; Smit, Renee (Springer, 2022-11)
    Are the ways of engaging with the world that students develop through higher education particular to bodies of knowledge they study? In this article, we examine how students' accounts of the discipline of chemistry in England and South Africa changed over the three years of their undergraduate degrees. Based on a longitudinal phenomenographic analysis of 105 interviews with 33 chemistry students over the course of their undergraduate degrees in four institutions, we constituted five qualitatively different ways of describing chemistry. These ranged from chemistry as something that happens when things are mixed in a laboratory to a more inclusive account that described chemistry as being able to explain molecular interactions in unfamiliar environments. Most students expressed more inclusive accounts of chemistry by the end of their degrees and the level of change appeared to be related to their educational experiences. In contrast to approaches that emphasise the generic student outcomes from higher education, these findings highlight the importance of recognising the distinctive outcomes that students gain from their engagement with particular bodies of disciplinary knowledge. It further highlights the importance of students understanding their degrees as an educational experience that requires them to commit to engaging with these bodies of knowledge.
  • Investigating student approaches to scenario-based assessments of systems thinking
    Norris, Matthew B.; Grohs, Jacob R.; Knight, David B. (Frontiers, 2022-12)
    The development of systems thinking is considered a critical skill set for addressing interdisciplinary problems. This skill set is particularly important in the field of engineering, where engineers are often tasked with solving socio-technical problems that often require knowledge beyond their original discipline and practice in unfamiliar contexts. However, existing assessments often fail to accurately measure teachable knowledge or skills that constitute systems thinking. To investigate this issue, we compared students' performance on two previously and independently peer-reviewed scenario-based assessments for systems thinking: The Village of Abeesee and the Lake Urmia Vignette. Twenty undergraduate engineering students participated in a multi-phase case study utilizing think aloud protocols and semi-structured interview methods to elicit the approaches students took thinking across the two instruments and past experiences that they felt prepared them to solve these ill-structured problems. We found that the way a scenario is presented to students impacts their subsequent problem-solving approach, which complicates assessment of systems thinking. Additionally, students identified only limited opportunities for the development of ill-structured problem-solving skills necessary for systems thinking. Our findings inform future work on improving systems thinking assessments and emphasize the importance of more intentionally supplying opportunities for students to practice solving ill-structured problems throughout the curriculum.
  • Using eye gaze to reveal cognitive processes and strategies of engineering students when solving spatial rotation and mental cutting tasks
    Hsing, Hsiang-Wen; Bairaktarova, Diana; Lau, Nathan (American Society for Engineering Education, 2023-01)
    Background: Spatial problem-solving is an essential skill for success in many engineering disciplines; thus, understanding the cognitive processes involved could help inform the design of training interventions for students trying to improve this skill. Prior research has yet to investigate the differences in cognitive processes between spatial tasks in problem-solving to offer learners timely feedback. Purpose/Hypothesis: In this study, we investigated how different spatial tasks change the cognitive processes and problem-solving strategies used by engineering students with low spatial ability. Design/Method: Study participants completed mental rotation and mental cutting tasks of high and low difficulty. Eye-tracking data were collected and categorized as encoding, transformation, and confirmation cognitive processes. The adoption of either a holistic or piecemeal strategy and response accuracy were also measured. Results: Mental rotation was found to have a higher number of fixations for each cognitive process than the mental cutting task. The holistic strategy was used in both difficulty levels of the mental cutting task, while the piecemeal strategy was adopted for the mental rotation task at a high difficulty level. Only encoding fixations were significantly correlated with accuracy and most strongly correlated with strategy. Conclusion: Encoding is an important cognitive process that could affect subsequent cognitive processes and strategies and could, thus, play an important role in performance. Future development in spatial training should consider how to enhance encoding to aid students with low spatial ability. Educators can utilize gaze metrics and empirical research to provide tailored and timely feedback to learners.
  • Perspectives on Moral Agency in Human-Robot Interaction
    Kim, Boyoung; Phillips, Elizabeth; Williams, Tom; Zhu, Qin (ACM, 2023-03-13)
    Establishing when, how, and why robots should be considered moral agents is key for advancing human-robot interaction. For instance, whether a robot is considered a moral agent has significant implications for how researchers, designers, and users can, should, and do make sense of robots and whether their agency in turn triggers social and moral cognitive and behavioral processes in humans. Robotic moral agency also has significant implications for how people should and do hold robots morally accountable, ascribe blame to them, develop trust in their actions, and determine when these robots wield moral influence. In this workshop on Perspectives on Moral Agency in Human-Robot Interaction, we plan to bring together participants who are interested in or have studied the topics concerning a robot’s moral agency and its impact on human behavior. We intend to provide a platform for holding interdisciplinary discussions about (1) which elements should be considered to determine the moral agency of a robot, (2) how these elements can be measured, (3) how they can be realized computationally and applied to the robotic system, and (4) what societal impact is anticipated when moral agency is assigned to a robot. We encourage participants from diverse research fields, such as computer science, psychology, cognitive science, and philosophy, as well as participants from social groups marginalized in terms of gender, ethnicity, and culture.
  • Student Outcomes from the Collective Design and Delivery of Culturally Relevant Engineering Outreach Curricula in Rural and Appalachian Middle Schools
    Matusovich, Holly M.; Gillen, Andrew L.; Van Montfrans, Veronica; Grohs, Jacob R.; Paradise, Tawni; Carrico, Cheryl; Lesko, Holly; Gilbert, Karen (SAGE Publications, 2021)
    Middle school is a pivotal time for career choice, and research is rich with studies on how students perceive engineering, as well as corresponding intervention strategies to introduce younger students to engineering and inform their conceptions of engineering. Unfortunately, such interventions are typically not designed in culturally relevant ways. Consequently, there continues to be a lack of students entering engineering and a low level of diverse candidates for this profession. The purpose of this study was to explore how students in rural and Appalachian Virginia conceive of engineering before and after engagement with culturally relevant hands-on activities in the classroom. We used student responses to the Draw an Engineer Test (DAET), consisting of a drawing and several open-ended prompts administered before and after the set of engagements, to answer our research questions related to changes in students’ conceptions of engineering. We used this study to develop recommendations for teachers for the use of such engineering engagement practices and how to best assess their outcomes, including looking at the practicality of the DAET. Overall, we found evidence that our classroom engagements positively influenced students’ conceptions of engineering in these settings.
  • The fallacy of “there are no candidates”: Institutional pathways of Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino doctorate earners
    Fleming, Gabriella Coloyan; Patrick, Anita D.; Grote, Dustin; Denton, Maya; Knight, David B.; Lee, Walter C.; Borrego, Maura; Murzi, Homero (Wiley, 2023-01)
    Background: Despite many initiatives to improve graduate student and faculty diversity in engineering, there has been little or no change in the percentage of people from racially minoritized backgrounds in either of these groups. Purpose/Hypothesis: The purpose of this paper is to counter the scarcity fallacy, in which institutions blame the “shortage” of qualified people from traditionally marginalized backgrounds for their own lack of representation, related to prospective PhD students and prospective faculty from traditionally marginalized groups. This study identifies the BS-to-PhD and PhD-to-tenure-track-faculty institutional pathways of Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino engineering doctorate recipients. Design/Method: Using the US Survey of Earned Doctorates, we tracked the BS-to-PhD institutional pathways of 3952 Black/African American and 5732 Hispanic/Latino engineering PhD graduates. We also used the Survey of Doctorate Recipients to track the PhD-to-tenure-track faculty pathways of 104 Black/African American and 211 Hispanic/Latino faculty. Results: The majority of Black/African American and Hispanic/Latino PhD graduates in this study did not earn their BS degrees from Top 25 institutions, but rather from Not Top 25, non-US, and minority-serving institutions. The results also show the relatively small proportion of PhD earners and faculty members who move into highly ranked institutions after earning a bachelor's degree from outside this set of institutions. Conclusions: The findings of this study have important implications for graduate student and faculty recruitment by illustrating that recruitment from a narrow range of institutions (i.e., Top 25 institutions) is unlikely to result in increased diversity among racially minoritized PhDs and faculty in engineering.
  • Doctoral advisor selection processes in science, math, and engineering programs in the United States
    Artiles, Mayra S.; Knight, David B.; Matusovich, Holly M. (2023-01-24)
    Although advising relationships are key for doctoral student success, little research has addressed how they form. Understanding the formation of advising relationships can help contextualize their later development and ultimately support a student’s decision to persist in the doctorate. To understand relationship formation, the purpose of this qualitative study is to identify and describe the types of advisor–advisee selection processes that exist in engineering, science, and math doctoral programs and examine patterns across disciplines within those fields. We conducted interviews with doctoral program directors and engaged in document analysis of graduate student handbooks from 55 doctoral programs in the aforementioned fields in high research institutions across the United States. Using principal–agent theory as a theoretical lens, our findings showed that engineering programs tend to decentralize the advisor selection process by funding students across different funding sources upon enrollment. Contrariwise, science and math programs tended to fund all students in a cohort from a common funding source, which allowed students to have more time to gather information, meet, and select an advisor. These findings also show important nuances when comparing graduate education in these programs that directly impact the doctoral student experience and reiterates the necessity to study these fields separately.
  • Community-engaged heat resilience planning: Lessons from a youth smart city STEM program
    Lim, Theodore C.; Wilson, Bev; Grohs, Jacob R.; Pingel, Thomas (Elsevier, 2022-10-01)
    While recognition of the dangers of extreme heat in cities continues to grow, heat resilience remains a relatively new area of urban planning. One barrier to the creation and successful implementation of neighborhood-scale heat resilience plans has been a lack of reliable strategies for resident engagement. In this research, the authors designed a two-week summer STEM module for youth ages 12 to 14 in Roanoke, Virginia in the Southeastern United States. Participants collected and analyzed temperature and thermal comfort data of varying types, including from infrared thermal cameras and point sensors, handheld weather sensors, drones, and satellites, vehicle traverses, and student peer interviews. Based on primary data gathered during the program, we offer insights that may assist planners seeking to engage residents in neighborhood-scale heat resilience planning efforts. These lessons include recognizing: (1) the problem of heat in neighborhoods and the social justice aspects of heat distribution may not be immediately apparent to residents; (2) a need to shift perceived responsibility of heat exposure from the personal and home-based to include the social and landscape-based; (3) the inextricability of solutions for thermal comfort from general issues of safety and comfort in neighborhoods; and (4) that smart city technologies and high resolution data are helpful “hooks” to engagement, but may be insufficient for shifting perception of heat as something that can be mitigated through decisions about the built environment.
  • Engineering Deans’ Perspectives on the Current State of Faculty Development Programs in Engineering Education
    Huerta, Mark; London, Jeremi S.; McKenna, Ann (Tempus Publications, 2023-08-01)
    There is little literature exploring the needs of engineering faculty and the resources available at engineering colleges to support faculty development. Engineering deans are key stakeholders within institutions well-positioned to discuss trends and practices in faculty development within engineering colleges, however their perspective has not been captured in the literature. The purpose of this exploratory qualitative study was to learn about the state of faculty development within engineering colleges through the perspective of engineering deans. A particular focus was placed on identifying salient faculty needs and resources available to support faculty development within engineering colleges. Semi-structured interviews were completed with 23 engineering deans representing three types of institutions: R1 public (n = 8), R1/R2 private (n = 6), and primarily undergraduate-focused (n = 9). A rigorous thematic analysis process was completed until a final codebook emerged with strong interrater agreement. According to the deans the primary needs for incoming faculty involved teaching, research, understanding expectations, time management, and connectivity. There were variances in the approaches and resources available at each institution especially in relation to mentorship. This study indicates that further investigating effectiveness of faculty development programs especially mentorship across the various stages of a faculty’s career would be fruitful contributions to the engineering education community.
  • Houselessness: Myth vs. Data
    Nicewonger, Todd; Fritz, Stacey; McNair, Lisa D. (The Arctic Institute, 2022-06-07)
    This brief draws on an ongoing remote ethnographic study examining how varying modes of housing insecurity are experienced by Alaskans. This includes: • an introduction to the term “houselessness,” which describes shifting modes of housing insecurity caused by socio-economic changes and unanticipated life events, but also housing shortages, difficulties acquiring land and permission for building new housing, and (especially for some Indigenous groups) the foreign nature of home financing. • reflections on the precarious living situations that Alaskans from rural communities’ experience across their lifetimes. • the need for further qualitative research that interrogates how assumptions about houselessness are experienced by Alaskans in different contexts, not least because the term houselessness is a proactive attempt to delimit narrowly defined and demeaning terms such as homelessness.
  • Career Paths of Engineering and Computer Science Doctoral Recipients
    Knight, David B.; Borrego, Maura; Grote, Dustin (2022)