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By Caroline Baillie, Edmond Ko, Wendy Newstetter, and David Radcliffe

JEE SelectsTo Advance, We Must Change

A special centennial issue explores rigor in research, diversity promotion, and integration of disciplines.

To mark 100 years of the Journal of Engineering Education, a special January issue reflects on the emergence of engineering education as a research-based discipline and explores what the future holds. The six papers presented are intended to encourage thinking that reaches beyond preparing students for the profession. They address key challenges in the field, examine ways that engineering education might be advanced through research, and explore recent and exciting developments in engineering education research. We hope they will inspire innovation and stimulate needed change.

The papers underscore the point that education research and practice are mutually dependent. Efficient and effective advances in practice require the same quality of research design and intellectual rigor that underpin technological advances. We look forward to a time when, as in industry, new practices arise from an intentional research-and-development cycle.

A recurrent theme is the need to promote and sustain diversity in engineering practice, education, and education research. The connotation used here implies tolerance of and respect for difference and, even more, a desire to embrace and celebrate variety. Diverse, even oppositional voices can be found in these papers as researchers and thinkers both in the field and outside are invited to “converse.” We note that while our engineering education research community is drawn from different disciplines and traditions, it is still very Western centric. As we move forward, we need to address how we can embrace a broader community of researchers, teachers, students, and engineers, and what we can do to bring in different cultural traditions and ways of thinking and being.

A less overt theme, but one that inherently pervades any discussion of the past or the future of engineering education, is a trend toward interdisciplinarity and integration, and even toward establishment of novel disciplinary formulations. New subdisciplines such as materials science, bioengineering, and environmental engineering, to name three, challenge the boundaries of historically distinct practice communities.

We hope that this special issue will appeal to a diverse range of readers from many countries, including academics, administrators, and researchers across all disciplines related to engineering education. All the papers included make clear that for either instructional practices or engineering education research to advance, engineering educators will need to change some of their perspectives and behavior. Change, however, does not come easily or automatically. We anticipate that the new insights offered by the authors will inspire action and innovation based on research and scholarship utilizing diverse perspectives and coming from multiple voices.

In turn, we hope the arguments raised here will enable and empower engineering faculty and administrators to tackle major challenges in their particular historical, socio-political, and cultural context. We further hope this leads to more active, interdisciplinary, and international collaborations between engineering educators and engineering education researchers and scholars in advancing engineering, however we define it, and engineering education, wherever and however we practice it.


Caroline Baillie is Winthrop Professor and chair of engineering education at the University of Western Australia; Edmond Ko is director of the Center for Engineering Education Innovation at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; Wendy Newstetter is director of learning sciences research in the Coulter biomedical engineering department at the Georgia Institute of Technology; David Radcliffe is Kamyar Haghighi Head of Engineering Education at Purdue University. This article is adapted from the Guest Editors’ Foreword in the January 2011 Journal of Engineering Education.




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