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Research in Engineering Education


Thursday, September 17, 2015


The Division of Engineering Education and Centers (EEC) supports creation of a more agile engineering education ecosystem, equally open and available to all members of society, that dynamically and rapidly adapts to meet the changing needs of society and the Nation's economy.  Research is sought that will inform systemic change across all parts of the ecosystem; areas of interest include, but are not limited to:

  1. Diversifying pathways to and through engineering degree programs.  Research projects that align with this theme explore how engineering programs can create alternative pathways for students with a broad range of backgrounds, interests, and experiences; investigate how informal or real world experiences germane to engineering-such as military service or being a "maker" (i.e. tinkerer or hobbyist)-serve as pathways to engineering; or investigate how to fundamentally restructure courses, curricula, or programs to substantially boost student success, especially for under-represented populations and veterans.  Research on approaches that lower barriers for students to transfer into or between engineering programs, from other majors or community colleges for example, is also sought.
  2. Exploring credentialing in engineering education.   Research in this area explores how higher education institutions credential learning, i.e. certify student learning via externally accepted metrics.  Topics include exploring the relation between credentialing and learning, developing new methods to assess and credential learning, and understanding how credentials are valued and interpreted both within and external to the university.  Projects exploring novel credentialing methods that create more porous boundaries between formal and informal learning spaces are particularly sought.
  3. Understanding how to scale engineering education innovations.  This topic includes studies on how to improve the translation of engineering education research to practice or scale educational innovations to have systemic impact.  This topic also supports activities that inform engineering education efforts and investments or spawn new research.  Such activities include modeling engineering education as a complex adaptive system, creating data systems that can inform future efforts, or clarifying the return on investments in engineering education.
  4. Advancing engineering learning in broader eco-systems such as innovation, globalization, or sustainability.  Research projects that align with this theme include discovering key concepts and principles that enable engineering graduates to succeed in highly interdisciplinary environments or "eco-systems"; i.e. rigorously determining the effect of such programs on students or exploring factors such as teamwork, self efficacy, communication, or identity formation in such environments.
  5. Developing engineering-specific learning theories.  Theories on development of engineering epistemologies and identities, and the effect of novel learning environments (such as maker-spaces) on learning are particularly sought.  

Competitive proposals advance understanding in engineering education by grounding the proposed work in theory as well as relevant prior work in engineering education specifically and education generally.  Proposals should clearly address why the proposed research fills gaps in existing knowledge and address how evaluation will inform the research effort and allow assessment of the project's impact and effectiveness.

Engineering education research projects should address the iterative cycle in which research questions that advance understanding are informed by practice and the results of research are, in turn, translated into practice.  In other words, how are the research results broadly generalizable and/or transferable?   Successful projects identify specific target audiences, effective communication channels, and novel partnerships to ensure broad dissemination.  PIs are strongly encouraged to provide a roadmap detailing how they envision the proposed research will eventually be scaled to broadly impact practice, even if these activities are not within the scope of the submitted proposal. 

Proposals to build research capacity such as developing means to measure engineering thinking, doing, and knowing or proposals to build research networks or infrastructure will be considered.  This program strongly discourages proposals that seek funding primarily to develop tools, curriculum, or laboratories, or that seek to implement innovations that have already been shown to be effective for engineering students. More information can be found in the program's Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), see link below. 

The REE program accepts a diverse range of project scales from small, exploratory projects to large scale investigations with a broad, systemic scope; project budgets should match the project scope.  Small-scale, exploratory projects with high transformative potential are strongly encouraged.  The estimated number of awarded proposals is based on a projected average funding level of approximately $100,000 per project per year.   All PIs should discuss the budget of proposed projects with a cognizant program officer before submission.

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