F: Researching Innovation, Part B


TITLE: Creating Informed Problem Solvers: A Case Study in Engineering Education

PRESENTERS: Michael Fosmire, Purdue University; Senay Purzer, Purdue University; Ruth Wertz, Purdue University

In our increasingly knowledge-based society, the focus of engineering education has changed dramatically, de-emphasizing specialized content skills and rote problem solving and concentrating on processes and habits of mind, such as problem solving, critical thinking, and adaptability. Indeed, the discipline now embraces the concept of Renaissance Engineers, who can contribute their expertise as a part of a team to solve the increasingly complex and interdisciplinary problems facing our society, both locally and globally. This refocusing of perspective has led in the past decade to more open-ended, design-based coursework for undergraduate students, even as early as a student’s first year, as, for engineers, the design process is the common method that ties the profession together. In order for students to be prepared to solve the ill-structured problems they will face after graduation, there needs to be a cultural shift in how information gathering is integrated into engineering curricula. Most process models of engineering design do explicitly contain an information gathering component, yet despite that, information skills are typically cursorily discussed in most engineering courses, if at all. Engineering faculty often believe students already possess information skills, although they are continually disappointed by their students’ performance on open-ended assignments. To shed light on these perceptions, the authors will report results of a self-assessment of student information skills as well as independent measures of their competencies, which indicate that first-year engineering students have an inflated perception of their own skills. Building on the results of the student assessments, this paper presents an integrated model of engineering design that incorporates both relevant information literacy theories and engineering education research, and discusses the first application of the model to an authentic memo assignment. As a collaboratively developed model, it introduces a common vocabulary that both disciplines can comfortably use, helping bridge the gap between librarians and engineering faculty. The informed problem solving model has transformed the structure of design activities for the first-year engineering program at Purdue, and current research focuses on validating the model and assessment tools at a variety of institutions across the country.


TITLE: Learning Cycles in Large Chemistry Lectures: Implementation Logistics

PRESENTER: Ellen Yezierski, Miami University

Inquiry-based instruction employing the learning cycle is theoretically grounded in constructivism (1) and social constructivism (2) as well as empirically supported in research conducted in learning environments K-16. Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) is a teaching method that has been broadly disseminated over the past 8 years. Implementing POGIL and related approaches in large college chemistry courses is accompanied by a host of logistical challenges; however, interested practitioners have pooled their strategies with the hope that instructors, across a variety of college and university teaching settings, will adopt more student-centered teaching methods. These strategies (3) address implementation by focusing on parameters related to planning, instructional materials, assessment, and management which support students engaging in mini-learning cycles in collaborative groups. With respect to planning, the primary focus is on the process of determining the underlying knowledge structures and then developing activities which replace lecture and help students invent and/or discover this knowledge through the analysis of data or a model. The duration for course transformation is variable and depends on the pace at which materials development can occur. There are numerous practitioners across the U.S. at a variety of types of institutions. This presentation will present one practitioner’s implementation lessons learned about syllabus design, creating student groups, and grading considerations, along tested group activities. Additionally, data demonstrating the effectiveness of the approach will be disseminated with the hope of producing impacts going beyond instructor-by-instructor adoption.

von Glasersfeld, E. (1995). Radical Constructivism: A Way of Knowing and Learning. The Falmer Press: London & Washington, DC.

Vygotsky L. S., (1978), Mind in society: the development of higher psychological processes, M.Cole, V. John-Steiner, S. Scribner and E. Souberman (eds.), Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Yezierski, E. J., Bauer, C. F., Hunnicutt, S. S., Hanson, D. M., Amaral, K. E. & Schneider, J. P. (2008). POGIL implementation in large classes: Strategies for planning, teaching, and management. In R. S. Moog & J. N. Spencer (Eds.), Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society Symposium Books.


TITLE: STEM Strategies in K-15 Education in Colombia

PRESENTER: Maria Figueroa, Universidad de los Andes

The Center for Research and Development in Education (CIFE) at Universidad de los Andes (Bogotá, Colombia) has launched a STEM program as a part of its mission to produce research‐based  knowledge for the improvement of education at all levels and systems.

Since 2009 CIFE has offered a STEM specialization within the master’s of education program. The STEM specialization encourages teachers to become deliberative, reflective STEM learners as well as becoming more skilled leaders of their students’ STEM knowledge, skills, and thinking.

Incorporating research findings on how best to engage students with science, these programs integrate the teaching and learning of the STEM subjects (Science, Engineering, Technology, and Mathematics) by taking advantage of cross and interdisciplinary connections between the disciplines, as well as connections with other subject areas.

Currently, the STEM concentration has 25 students. Since this specialization is new, most of the projects carried out by previous graduates have focused on teaching about a specific area. However, some recent graduates have researched about the design of STEM assessments and about Science learning in Engineering. It is expected that research on STEM and the integration among the areas will increase in the near future.

STEM at CIFE allows educators to learn first‐hand of the natural integration that occurs in these areas. This program emphasizes how STEM teachers can present an integrated curriculum, aimed at solving real‐world problems, and providing students access to 21st century skills.

CIFE also fosters STEM integration in several other ways, including the Pequeños Científicos program and training faculty in STEM areas within the Universidad de los Andes and other universities.

Pequeños Científicos (“Little scientists”) is an inquiry-based K-12 teaching program that started in the year 2000. Its goal is to reform science teaching and learning in schools in Colombia, training  teachers to use guided inquiry. Currently, 200 schools are participating in Pequeños Científicos and the program is being implemented in different regions of Colombia. Several alliances between Universidad de los Andes and governmental agencies, universities, and local sponsors have been done as well as workshops for teachers to become teacher trainers, in order to increase the program and its participants.

CIFE also offers specific programs directed to teaching assistants within the Sciences School. In the past couple of years, more than 150 teaching assistants (TA’s) from different Science departments have participated in workshops in which topics such as inquiry teaching and assessment, and ways of integrating different disciplines are presented in order for the TA’s to incorporate them in their teaching and assessment. In addition, every year, professors from the Sciences School received workshops offered by CIFE for improving their teaching at the University level.

Other STEM activities done at the University level, are the ones related with the Engineering Faculty. An education for engineers course is offered every year by CIFE and the Engineer school. In addition, in 2012, there will be a research project that studies Physics and Mathematics teaching for Engineers.

Therefore, CIFE and STEM faculties and departments across the university are committed to the development, research and evaluation of Integrated Teaching and Learning through STEM at the K‐18 level.