National Study Identifies Opportunities for Improving Engineering Education

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

CAEE coverThe Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE), directed by HCDE Professor Cindy Atman, recently released a report entitled Enabling Engineering Student Success. This report was recently highlighted by NSF. A major part of the report concerns the Academic Pathways Study (APS), which involved a group of scholars who conducted multi-year studies involving almost 5,500 students at more than 20 institutions as well as 100 new graduates. The report discusses the paths engineering students take as they enter and graduate from undergraduate degree programs. The study's results challenge many assumptions about instruction and learning. For instance, despite formal instruction, engineering students risk falling short of the communication or professional skills demanded of today's engineers. Even as they approach graduation, students may not fully appreciate the need to engage and collaborate with a wide range of individuals in globally distributed teams.

In addition to the APS, the report details other CAEE research and programs, including faculty decision-making, teaching preparation for future faculty, and expanding capacity for educational research in engineering. HCDE Professor Jennifer Turns, lead investigator of the Studies of Engineering Educator Decisions, points out that the research on faculty decision-making represents an important and novel approach to studying teaching: "A decision represents the point where educator thinking connects with educator action, and the decision-making process represents a context in which educators can apply research findings about students." Professor Atman notes that understanding the engineering student experience is not enough: "We need educators who are capable of using the research. Therefore, in addition to our analyses, we included questions in the report that can be asked by engineering educators to evaluate the effectiveness of their own programs or approaches."

See the CAEE website http://www.engr.washington.edu/caee/report_press_release.html for a complete description of the Enabling Engineering Student Success report.