Transformation of engineering education: Taking a perspective for the challenges of change
There are a variety of imperatives which call us to transform engineering education. Those who have made attempts to facilitate a change in engineering education have experienced slow or no progress. The literature on change has suggestions and strategies related to educational change but most of them are not able to guide the conversations and actions effectively. People interested in understanding the challenges often ask 'what makes educational change so difficult?' This research is an effort towards finding an answer to this question. The study adopted a transdisciplinary approach while taking a systems perspective on educational change in order to examine the challenges. Instead of exploring the effectiveness of change strategies and interventions, this study sought to understand the basic nature of change in engineering education organizations. For this purpose, the study adopted an integrated theoretical framework consisting of systems thinking, complexity theory, and transformative learning theory. The methodology was designed on the complexity research paradigm with interpretive qualitative methods used for data analysis. This approach enabled understanding the social and human conditions which reduce or enhance the likelihood of change in the context of an engineering education organization. The context for this study to investigate the challenges of transformation in engineering education is efforts around educating the Engineer of 2020. Four institutional initiatives at various stages in the transformation process provided cases for investigation in the study. The engineering educators at the four institutions participating in the study had experiences of active engagement in educational change. The interpretive qualitative analysis of the participants' accounts induced a systems perspective of the challenges which faculty face in their educational transformation efforts. The inertia which educational organizations experience against change appears to be caused by the commitment which the faculty members have to the educational paradigm prevalent in the organization and by the organizational structures and culture established in this paradigm. A condition that seems essential for the emergence of a new educational formation within an organizational context is the formation of a neighborhood of faculty who have a commitment for innovative education. The new ways of education seem to emerge in sustained, serendipitous, and long-term communicative interactions among the inhabitants of a neighborhood.
Adams, Purdue University.
Organization Theory|Science education|Higher education
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