Purdue RED – Revolutionizing Mechanical Engineering Education

Overview and research questions. Calls for transformation in engineering education over the past twenty years have been frequent, persistent, and forceful, with a specific emphasis on the skills required for the Professional Formation of Engineers (PFE). American competitiveness and economic/national security are at stake. Well-trained engineers moving swiftly along the PFE continuum and capable of leading in a complex, globalized world will own the future. Purdue’s Engineering Dean Leah Jamieson co-authored an influential blueprint that forms the basis of our proposal for revolution in the Mechanical Engineering (ME) program at Purdue. Revolutionary change simply cannot occur until we address two crucial facets of our academic organization: emotion and culture. Faculty, students, and staff hold emotionally-driven, deeply personal beliefs about what higher education is and should be, and in turn these beliefs shape the local culture within ME in both positive and negative ways.

This program takes a systematic approach to revolutionizing the ME department at Purdue by focusing on two sets of research questions:

Engineering Education Research Questions (EERQs):

Q1.  How do students navigate the pedagogical borderland they experience in concurrent or consecutive  experiences, and how does their navigation ability affect the achievement of PFEOs?

Q2.  How do faculty navigate the pedagogical borderland, create experiences, and calibrate their pedagogical approaches for student achievement of PFEOs?

Q3.  What are the most useful and effective tools to address the practical challenges associated with revolutionizing engineering education at scale, most importantly assessment tools?

Culture and Change Research Questions (CCRQs):

Q1.  How do ME department members describe and evaluate the current culture, how does that characterization compare to the envisioned future culture, and what are the key barriers to attaining the ideal future culture?

Q2.  Using Strategic Doing, can a leadership team design and guide the agile networks needed to scale, sustain, and replicate research-based pedagogies that revolutionize PFE outcomes?

Q3.  How does the Purdue ME Skunkworks enable broader-scale cultural change by driving the conversation at the borderlands?

Intellectual merit. This program achieves intellectual merit by answering a number of critical research questions about engineering education and appropriate approaches to achieving PFE outcomes at scale. Read More

Our vision emphasizes relationships, culture, and communication, along with undeniable technical prowess, as cornerstones of PFE achievement, and our goals for revolution are audacious in scope and scale. Engineering Dean Leah Jamieson provides a strong institutional commitment to our work. Our PI team is a uniquecoalition of experts in engineering education research, change management, and cultural anthropology of technical organizations. Our faculty development plan engages a modern approach (‘Strategic Doing’), currently employed by ASEE, appropriate for the highly-networked (not hierarchical) ME department organization. Our connection to professional practice leverages several highly successful, on-going programs in ME for both domestic and international experiences. Scalability and adaptation are central elements of our plan, with special emphasis on assessing PFE outcomes at scale. Our reliance on research in engineering education is robust, with one of our PI team holding a joint appointment between ME and Purdue’s School of Engineering Education.

Broader impact. We achieve broader impact via inclusion of diverse experts in executing the work, and more generally via our scaling and adaptation plan which will allows our blueprint to be adopted and adapted by other institutions interested in following our lead. Our Strategic Doing framework is gaining traction in engineering education, and our research program will propagate this powerful model for change.

Acknowledgement. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant number DUE-1519412. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.