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Collaborative Research: Understanding Context: Propagation and Effectiveness of the Concept Warehouse in Mechanical Engineering at Five Diverse Institutions and Beyond: 1821439

Principal Investigator: Milo Koretsky
CoPrincipal Investigator(s):
Organization: Oregon State University

An increase in the number and diversity of graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields is important for the nation’s competitiveness. Concept-based active learning strategies have been shown to improve students’ academic performance and increase the number who choose to stay in STEM programs. However, scientific proof that these strategies are effective is not enough to make sure instructors use them in courses. It is also necessary to understand and find ways to get instructors to adopt proven practices. In this project new online concept-based materials for mechanical engineering courses in Statics and Dynamics will be developed. The project team will study why instructors decide to use the materials, and how factors at five different types of institutions affect these decisions. The project will help to show how circumstances at different institutions affect both instructor adoption as well as student learning and motivation. It will help inform ways to support widespread use of the evidence-based instructional practice. Thus, it will also help more students stay in and graduate from engineering programs.

The goal of this project is to increase the adoption of concept-based active learning throughout undergraduate engineering programs. It builds upon the project team’s previous success in developing the web-based Concept Warehouse instructional resource for chemical engineering. The resource contains hundreds of short questions to engage students in concept-oriented thinking, to assess their conceptual knowledge, and to provide extensive concept-based active learning tools. The project will expand Concept Warehouse to include content in mechanical engineering. Participating institutions include research-intensive and Hispanic-serving institutions, as well as a two-year college. A systems approach will be used to examine how elements of the educational context, such as size and departmental culture, influence instructor uptake and the resulting student learning. A mixed-methods research design will include the use of data analytics, instructor interviews, student focus groups, observations, classroom video, and pre/post concept inventory scores. The research plan will also address ways in which student backgrounds and demographics (e.g., underrepresented minorities; first-generation status) interact with institutional settings to affect student learning and engagement. Workshops and faculty community building activities will be used to promote propagation of the enhanced evidence-based instructional practices.

This award reflects NSF’s statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation’s intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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