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American Society for Engineering EducationNOVEMBER 2006Volume 16 | Number 3 PRISM HOMETABLE OF CONTENTSBACK ISSUES
Fields of Fuel - By Bethany Halford
Higher Ambitions - By Alvin P. Sanoff
The Burden of Plagiarism - By Thomas K. Grose

REFRACTIONS: Identifying Ourselves - By Henry Petroski
LAST WORD: Gender Bias in Academe - By Alice Merner Agogino

Piecing It All Together: The Learning Factory provides engineering students with a more hands-on learning experience. By Lynne Shallcross
Book Review: The Dance of Molecules: How Nanotechnology Is Changing Our Lives - Reviewed By Robin Tatu
YEAR OF DIALOGUE: A Conversation With a Center- By Karl A. Smith
On Campus: Winning Combination - By Lynne Shallcross

YEAR OF DIALOGUE: A Conversation With a Center- By Karl A. SmithKarl A. Smith  


Engineering educators continually scrutinize the profession and periodically produce reports that change the landscape of engineering education. “Educating Engineers,” the forthcoming volume in the Carnegie Foundation’s Preparing for the Professions Program should have similar impact. Engineering education, however, only recently began thinking of itself as a discipline with research and scholarship, research funding and departments of engineering education with graduate students, such as programs at Purdue, Virginia Tech and Utah State.

Ernest Boyer initiated and championed the idea of expanding the definition of scholarship beyond that of discovery during his presidency of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. In his 1990 book, “Scholarship Reconsidered: Priorities of the Professoriate,” he argued that scholarship should include teaching, application and integration, in addition to discovery. The Journal of Engineering Education’s new editorial direction embraces Boyer’s expanded definition of scholarship. Recent editorials by Rich Felder, Sheri Sheppard, Sherra Kerns, Gary Gabriele, Kamyar Haghighi, Norman Fortenberry, Ruth Streveler, David Wormley and myself, as well as Jack Lohmann’s editorial leadership, are helping shape the dialogue on the scholarship of engineering education. Authors of the National Academy of Engineering’s “Educating the Engineer of 2020” also embrace Boyer’s expanded definition of scholarship: “Colleges and universities should endorse research in engineering education as a valued and rewarded activity for engineering faculty and should develop new standards for faculty qualifications.”

Two examples of embracing engineering education research that ASEE members may want to explore further are the NSF-funded Rigorous Research in Engineering Education: Creating a Community of Practice (RREE) project and the Engineering Education Research Colloquies.

The RREE project, led by ASEE, Ruth Streveler at Purdue University and myself, and a parallel project directed by Norman Fortenberry, director of the Center for the Advancement of Scholarship on Engineering Education at the National Academy of Engineering, are contributing to building the engineering education research community. The workshop objectives include exploring principles about how students learn, common methods used in education research and how to read and interpret education research articles. Each participant prepares a draft proposal to conduct informal or formal education research at his or her respective campus. The project recently completed its third year and has prepared about 150 faculty members with knowledge and skills for conducting rigorous engineering education research. The response was astounding in that many more faculty members applied for the program than there was space to accommodate. The fruits of the participants’ work are appearing in proposals, conference papers and journal articles.

The Engineering Education Research Colloquies involved the collective efforts of over 70 engineering, science and mathematics education researchers, helping them identify a national research agenda for engineering education. Five research areas were identified: Engineering Epistemologies; Engineering Learning Mechanisms; Engineering Learning Systems; Engineering Diversity and Inclusiveness; and Engineering Assessment.

Ernest Boyer, who initiated much of this conversation, noted in a 1996 article titled “The Scholarship of Engagement” that “abundant evidence shows that both the civic and academic health of any culture is vitally enriched as scholars and practitioners speak and listen carefully to each other.”

How do we engage the engineering education community in a substantive conversation about the scholarship of engineering education? Dialogue.How do we engage the engineering education community in a substantive conversation about the scholarship of engineering education? Dialogue is an excellent approach. William Isaacs defines dialogue in his book “Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together” as “a conversation with a center, not sides.”

ASEE’s Year of Dialogue on the Scholarship of Engineering Education began as a Socratic Dialogue at the 2006 ASEE Annual Conference. During this year, we have the opportunity to talk together to help guide this transformation of engineering education. I encourage you to engage in the dialogue.

Karl A. Smith is a professor of engineering education at Purdue University and professor of civil engineering at the University of Minnesota.




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American Society for Engineering Education