Projects

Effect of Integrated Engineering Mathematics on Student Mathematical Epistemology

Integrated engineering mathematics instruction presents mathematical topics and techniques in the context of their applications. This approach began at Wright State University and has since been ported to many other small universities. We will be studying the institutional change effort attempting to create long-term buy-in for this research based instructional strategy at a large R1 university. We will also study the effect of integrated engineering mathematics on student mathematical epistemology and beliefs about mathematics. This project begins with a survey of engineering faculty opinions on how the mathematics their students are learning connects with what is demanded by the engineering curriculum and a study of course artifacts such as homework problems and exams to examine what mathematics is demanded by the engineering curriculum. We will then design the course and deliver it during Fall semester 2016, examining and surveying students achievement and epidemiological shift.

Student Experiences in Internships at Startups Compared to Established Companies

Many learning theorists, such as Dewey and Vygotsky, have claimed that people learn and construct knowledge through experience.  Experiential learning represents one method of learning through experience, including internships, cooperative learning, and apprenticeships; however, very little research has focused on student experiences.  This study will use mixed methods to explore student experiences during internships and to better understand whether student learning outcomes differ at startups compared to established companies.  Methods include a survey and qualitative interviews.  Supported by the University of Illinois Career Center Robert P. Larsen Grant for Research in Career Development.

Fostering Collaborative Drawing and Problem Solving Through Digital Sketch and Touch

Deep learning can be meaningfully achieved through collaborative learning that requires negotiation of strategies, knowledge, and meaning. This type of learning can be achieved in context-rich or authentic learning tasks that are complex enough to necessitate collaboration. In the engineering classroom, this type of learning can often take place in small group discussion sections focused on problem solving. This project is exploring pathways for using tablets and interactive tables to support students’ collaboration in engineering discussion sections. In particular, we will be studying how digital sketching and touch affect students’ collaboration and how technology can be used to enhance collaboration. Supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant IIC-1441149.

Exploring Expert and Novice Graphical Communication Through Digital Sketching

Engineering is an inherently visual or graphical discipline as engineers must model complex systems as simpler models that facilitate design, analysis, and decision making. Sketching is an integral part of this modeling process and hence the engineering thought process. This project is exploring the differences between when and how experts and novices use sketching during their engineering problem solving. It has been well documented that experts and novices perceive engineering sketches differently based on their level of expertise. This project will explore whether we can assess students’ conceptual understanding by observing how and when they produce engineering sketches. Supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DUE-1429348.

Grit for Engineering Students: Connecting Self-Theories with Persistence

Grit is a personal quality that combines commitment to long-term goals with perseverance through difficulties. Grit could play an important role in the persistence of engineering students. We will investigate whether the Grit Scale developed by Duckworth et al. predicts the retention of first-year students in engineering. We will interview engineering students who persisted despite failing a required course to describe the conditions that support grit. Using data from the interviews, we will develop an intervention that could improve engineering students’ grit by changing their goal orientations and self-theories. Supported by the Campus Research Board at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and by the National Science Foundation under Grant DUE-1626287.

Scaling Cultures of Collaboration: Evidence-Based Reform in Portal STEM Courses

We are creating a faculty community of practice (CoP) around each gateway course in ten science and engineering departments. We are using the CoP process to change the culture of teaching and to help faculty members adapt evidenced-based instructional reforms to these courses, which enroll more than 17,000 students annually. The CoP approach operates both within each department and also at the aggregate level across all ten departments. We expect that the CoPs will engender common ownership of the reforms, countering the current individualistic teaching culture, thereby institutionalizing the reforms so that they are used in the gateway courses as new faculty are assigned to teach them. Supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DUE-1347722.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Illinois or the National Science Foundation.