Wide Angle Snapshot
The Center for Engineering Education Research (CEER) was established in 2009 as a discipline-based education research (DBER) center to promote engineering education research in the MSU College of Engineering, More broadly, CEER promotes STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education across MSU. The main goal of CEER is to facilitate a college-wide effort to continuously improve the educational environment of the College by conducting studies based on effective models of learning and by systematically assessing the outcomes.
CEER provides a number of services to support individual and small groups of faculty as they explore the state-of-the-art and generate proposals to to pursue research in engineering education. CEER also stands ready to help with the development of large-scale proposals, such as those for NSF Engineering Research Centers.
The three key roles of CEER are to:
- provide a focus in the College of Engineering for expansion of funded research in engineering education,
- encourage and support engineering faculty and staff in moving increasingly towards active learning methods based on a strong evidenced-based approach, and
- synergistically collaborate with other university units to enhance research in STEM programs at MSU generally.
MSU College of Engineering Educational Research prior to CEER
Educational research has been conducted in the MSU College of Engineering for many years. Programs have included development funds to increase participation of historically underrepresented groups, development funds targeting increased participation of women, funded outreach programs to K-12, and curricular development funding under corporate sponsorship. In addition, some engineering faculty have been active in paper submission and presentation at regional and annual conferences on engineering education (e.g.; ASEE and FIE).
Beginning in 2001, a regularly meeting, self-directed study group convened [Sticklen (CSE), Briedis (CHEMS), Buch (CEE), Paquette (LCC), Urban-Lurain (NatSci)]. This group was cross disciplinary, cross college, and cross institution. The driving goals were to become broadly familiar with the literature in engineering education research, and to position the group to identify leveraged research questions and to seek external funding to support the research. Over twenty ASEE papers have been presented from this group, a number of early unsuccessful NSF proposals have been made, and a large amount of group study and connection building have taken place.
CEER as a Catalyst
Two medium-to-large NSF current projects have been won recently, driven by the members of the study group noted above, and with Associate Dean Wolff as the Principle Investigator.
The first project awarded to the group is an NSF/CISE project under the CPATH program (CCF 0722221). The goal of this award is to engage a cross section of Michigan employers to provide feedback on their needs for computing abilities within their companies. The feedback is targeted at all disciplines in engineering with the exception of computer science. The stakeholder feedback will be used to develop plans for curricular change to seamlessly integrate problem solving with computational tools in the engineering curricula. A subsequent proposal to NSF targeting implementation of the plan for curricular change is planned for April, 2009.
The second project award to this group is an NSF/DUE project under the STEP program (DUE 0757020). The goal of this award is to increase retention in the College of Engineering from 65% to 75% over the life of the project. There are four subprojects included in the project that involve fifteen senior faculty researchers across two colleges (Engineering and Natural Science) and two institutions (MSU and LCC).
In addition to the positive status of externally funded projects in engineering education research, currently there are a number of major projects that have direct and synergistic overlap to this type of research. First, as part a strong effort to revitalize our undergraduate engineering programs at MSU, the first year program in engineering has been rethought, redesigned, and reimplemented. The new first year program is synergistic with systematic efforts in engineering education research; assessment of learning outcomes for the first year program will provide a critical, fact-based link in a cycle of continuous improvement. Positive linkage in the other direction also exists; the first year program will form an important testbed/laboratory for an enlarged and growing role for engineering education research.
Second, in keeping with the long history of living learning communities at MSU, MSU upper administration and the College of Engineering have endorsed and funded a program expanding our current engineering living/learning program (ROSES) to cover virtually all first year engineering students, most second year students, and a number of upper division students. The program, the Spartan Experience in Engineering, is housed in Wilson Hall. A core part of of our residential program is promoting stronger linkages between engineering faculty and students. The core goal of this large and ambitious project is the establishment of a true living/learning community of undergraduate, engineering scholars and engineering faculty. The combination of the new first year program and the Residential Experience in Engineering provide a rich, and in many ways unique environment. As this environment evolves there will be many changes, small and large, over the coming years. A strong focal point for engineering education research will assure that decisions made affecting program evolution will have a fact basis, and that all changes will be assessed both in terms of learning outcomes and in terms of student attitudes.
The picture now is like a canvas with a number of beautiful segments, but not quite completed. Our first-year engineering program is already engaging students and establishing a cadre of faculty committed to improving retention of early engineering students by leveraging effective educational strategies. Our current portfolio of funded research will inform key parts of engineering curricula (CPATH project) and will broadly develop programs fostering strengthened retention of engineering students (STEP project). Our Spartan Experience in Engineering, on line in Fall, 2009, will evolve to a strong community of faculty and students who are collectively engaged in highly collaborative, living learning community.
CEER is the glue that holds together the picture painted above; CEER is the MSU focal point for engineering education research.
At the broadest stroke, the vision for CEER is to be a recognized and leading center for educational research at a national and international level.
- First, within the College of Engineering, CEER will play a key role in continuous improvement of new educational programs.
- Second, CEER will encourage and assist faculty broadly in participation in outcomes-based educational research.
- Third, in the College of Engineering, CEER will act as a focal point to lead large scale proposals for engineering education research when appropriate and to assist others with such proposals in other cases.
- Fourth, CEER will act as a catalyst for institutional change in undergraduate engineering curricula and programs, resulting in sustainable improvement.
- Fifth, CEER will assist faculty whose main research focus and proposal efforts are in disciplinary areas for required educational components of NSF proposals, and will thus increase research proposal productivity across the board.
Within the broad context of Michigan State University, CEER will be a team player in the context of STEM research efforts, and, indeed, any educational research efforts. The track record of the core group and especially the makeup of the project team for the current STEP award underlines the point that the roots of CEER have been in collaborative research and that the CEER team will remain committed to and (equally importantly) competent in leveraging collaborative opportunities. Linkages with other MSU loci for educational research, such as the existing CRCSTL center in Natural Science, will leverage the capabilities of both sides of the linkage.
At an institutionally level, under current sponsorship of Associate Provost Estry, Engineering will play a key role in the development of a database resource for institutional assessment data. This same database structure will fold back to form a resource that we will use in Engineering to store (eventually) the results of all studies in educational research. Over time, this data resource will become more and more valuable as we are enabled to do meta-studies and thus to get the effect of longitudinal coverage of our student outcomes. CEER will be the organizational home of this data resource in engineering educational research.
The “MSU Comprehensive Data Resource on Engineering Education Research” will be one facet of CEER that increasingly will put Center activities on a national stage. In addition, with the testbed of the new first year program and the Residential Experience, CEER will be positioned for many years to develop insightful studies into early engineering education. Also of strong research interest, CEER will engage in longitudinal studies helping to illuminate especially issues of curricular integration issues.
The mission of CEER is across a number of areas:
- foster an increased number of funded research proposals in engineering education research that increases by 10% per year,
- increase the number of funded research projects involving engineering education by 10% per year,
- widen the participation of engineering faculty in the submission of publications such as ASEE and FIE by 10% per year,
- collaboratively develop and implement an infrastructure to support engineering programs in assessment programs for ABET, and
- develop and implement the assessment component of the quality improvement cycle for large scale initiatives in education within the College of Engineering.
Day to day oversight and reporting lines from CEER to College of Engineering administration will lead to the Associate Dean for Research. Formative assessment feedback will be made yearly by the Associate Dean to the Director of CEER. The terms and processes of the yearly review of CEER will follow established Michigan State University guidelines for the review of all MSU centers.
The review cycle for CEER will be five years. The charter for CEER may be renewed at the end of each five year period by the Dean of Engineering. The Director of CEER will file a written annual report to the Dean of Engineering, and will meet with the Dean on an annual basis for a formal oral review of the Center.
CEER will have an advisory committee made up of representatives from each undergraduate academic major in the College of Engineering. The chairperson of the internal advisory committee will construct a review based on committee consensus on a yearly basis and submit the report to the Dean and the Associate Dean for Research, and to the Director of CEER.
Finally, CEER will have an external advisory board made up of three non-engineering faculty. Members of the external board will be selected by the Dean of Engineering. The external advisory board will create a report each year to the Dean and the Associate Dean of Engineering for Research, and to the Director of CEER.