Published November 12, 2018
Could colleges and universities do a better job teaching engineering and computer science? Educational research says they can, and UB leaders agree, which is why the university has launched the Department of Engineering Education.
An academic unit of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the department officially formed in August. It offers more than a dozen undergraduate courses ranging from technical communication to ethics in engineering and computing. It is working toward establishing doctoral and graduate certificate programs, as well as faculty training programs and workshops.
“We’re creating a new interdisciplinary department with the goal of helping to transform how engineering students are taught,” says the department’s inaugural chair, SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Carl Lund. “To begin doing this, we’ve gathered a diverse roster of faculty members with academic backgrounds that range from English literature and television news production to mechanical engineering and higher education.”
Located on the first floor of Capen Hall, the department is focused on the “scaling and translation” of engineering education research findings into classroom practice, Lund explains.
To date, scaling and translation have occurred through collaborative efforts of education experts and content experts working together, usually on a single course. Content experts teaching a course without input from an education expert tend to rely on less established or effective teaching methods. The result has been a very slow and selective implementation of education innovations in engineering and computing classes.
Put simply, education experts generate the innovations, but engineering and computing content experts do the teaching. Those hired to teach engineering often do not have formal training in education. It’s this disconnect that prompted the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences to create the department, says Liesl Folks, the school’s dean.
“The Department of Engineering Education at UB will focus on developing means and methods that minimize the need for course-by-course collaborations between content and education experts. This will enable content experts to independently implement innovations across the existing range of courses, environments and enrollments,” Lund says.
“We anticipate UB will become a leader in computing and engineering education by emphasizing, studying and implementing new and effective scaling and translation strategies. The idea is to positively influence how the engineering and computer science communities teach students, both at UB and globally,” Folks says.
Adds Lund: “We are now in the process of adding faculty with demonstrated expertise in diversity, inclusiveness and persistence; the methods and practice of teaching; the science of learning; and assessment and engineering epistemology. The resulting fusion of content and education expertise will position the department to profoundly impact engineering and computing education.”
In addition to hiring new faculty, the department will also appoint a new chair to replace Lund, who is expected to serve for one year.
For more information on the Department of Engineering Education, visit its website.