THE NSF FOUNDATION COALITION
REENGINEERING ENGINEERING EDUCATION
The National Science Foundation's Engineering Education Coalitions (EEC) program was established to "stimulate bold, innovative, and comprehensive models for systemic reform of undergraduate engineering education. The purpose of the program is to join universities and colleges of differing characters in collaboration to experiment and implement, acting as change agents for the engineering education community at large." In 1993, the NSF Foundation Coalition was funded as the fifth coalition in the EEC program. We envision the formation of a new culture of engineering education: students, faculty and industry working in partnership to create an enduring foundation for student development and life-long learning. The diverse member institutions - Arizona State University, Maricopa Community College District, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Texas A&M University, Texas A&M University - Kingsville, Texas Woman's University, and the University of Alabama - are developing improved curricula and learning environment models that are based on four primary thrusts: integration of subject matter within the curriculum, cooperative and active learning in the classroom, technology-enabled learning, and continuous improvement through assessment and evaluation. The Foundation Coalition partners seek to attract and retain a more demographically diverse student body and to graduate a new generation of engineers who can more effectively solve increasingly complex, rapidly changing societal problems. This paper discusses Coalition projects that have been especially important for achieving our goals, and describes Coalition plans for future accomplishments.
The National Science Foundation's Engineering Education Coalitions program was established to "stimulate bold, innovative, and comprehensive models for systemic reform of undergraduate engineering education. The purpose of the program is to join universities and colleges of differing characters in collaboration to experiment and implement, acting as change agents for the engineering education community at large." In 1993, the NSF Foundation Coalition (FC) was funded as the fifth coalition in the EEC program. The member institutions - Arizona State University, Maricopa Community College District, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Texas A&M University, Texas A&M University - Kingsville, Texas Woman's University, and the University of Alabama - draw on their diverse strengths and mutual support to construct improved curricula and learning environments; to attract and retain a more demographically diverse student body; and to graduate a new generation of engineers who can more effectively function in the 21st century.
FOUNDATION COALITION VISION
The vision of the NSF Foundation Coalition is an engineering education partnership between students, faculty, and industry that will produce graduates who have an
FOUNDATION COALITION MISSION
The mission of the FC is to provide national leadership in creating a new culture of engineering education: students, faculty, and employers working in partnership to produce an enduring foundation for student development and life-long learning. This cooperative partnership places new demands on all of the principals: students take a more active role in their education; employers become more fully engaged in characterizing the skills and attributes required of the 21st century engineer; faculty redefine their relationship to the students and to each other across disciplines, and more directly address the building of student skills and attributes. The FC, first on our own campuses and then nationally by dissemination and replication, will establish improved curricula and learning environments, attract and retain a more demographically diverse student body, and graduate engineers who reflect the FC vision.
FOUNDATION COALITION VALUES
As FC partners have restructured their curricula, they have sought to strengthen the historic excellence of engineering education while invigorating the learning environment and positioning the institutions to be able to make continuous improvements. As part of that process, we have defined four thrusts that we believe are necessary to achieve our vision.
FOUNDATION COALITION OBJECTIVES
The seven original FC institutions have been guided by in-depth strategic planning processes since the beginning, and have identified eight specific objectives upon which to focus:
Freshman Curricula: Create viable freshman curricula and learning environments based on the four primary thrusts of the Coalition at each partner institution.
Sophomore Curricula: Create viable sophomore curricula and learning environments based on the four primary thrusts of the Coalition at each partner institution.
Upper-Division Curricula: Initiate structural changes in upper-division engineering curricula that are based on the four primary thrusts of the Coalition in at least one discipline at each partner engineering college.
Bridge Programs: Build appropriate bridges between established curriculum requirements and incoming students' skills, knowledge, and motivation in order to increase student success and the accessibility of engineering education.
Underrepresented Groups: Implement academic and cultural changes that will increase the recruitment and graduation of students from underrepresented groups at each institution.
Assessment and Evaluation: Develop and implement Coalition-wide evaluation processes and procedures.
Dissemination: Share innovations developed by the Foundation Coalition, including curricula, learning environments, and processes for change.
Institutionalization: Develop and put in place an institutionalization plan for each campus in the Coalition.
During the first five years, the seven institutions focused primarily upon the development of curricular and learning environment products associated with the freshman curriculum, sophomore curriculum, upper-division curriculum, and bridge, or transition, programs, together with the establishment of coalition-wide standards and practices for the assessment and evaluation of these products. Each of the schools within the Foundation Coalition has now established its own unique implementation of these curriculum products, as appropriate for the particular institution. These products are already undergoing rigorous analysis by the Foundation Coalition's national assessment and evaluation team.
INTEGRATED LOWER-DIVISION CURRICULA
A major accomplishment of the Foundation Coalition has been to offer prototype integrated lower-division curricula at each partner institution. In some ways, these curricula are as diverse as the institutions that comprise the FC. Yet each curriculum is based on the four thrusts of the Coalition: curriculum integration, cooperative learning, technology-enabled learning, and continuous improvement through assessment and evaluation. Throughout the Coalition, courses have been established that are based on active/cooperative learning, the use of technology, and interaction with faculty from different disciplines. Students are learning engineering through integrated engineering design projects, and enjoying it. Freshman students in the Foundation Coalition are learning to build connections between intertwined disciplines of mathematics, physics, chemistry, English, and engineering. Sophomores are doing the same in the engineering sciences and mathematics. Faculty are excitedly discovering links among the courses they teach; students are enthusiastic about the relationships they build with faculty and other students, and about applying mathematics and science to engineering design. We believe our integrated lower-division curricula represent significant new models for engineering curricula across the country.
One partner institution, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, had been funded previously by the NSF to develop an integrated first-year curriculum. The efforts at RHIT had resulted in a program where engineering, calculus, chemistry, and physics were very tightly integrated for approximately 25% of their first-year students. Students in this program experienced these topics in one 12-hour course each quarter instead of individual courses. In the fall of 1994, each partner institution implemented a prototype first-year curriculum based on the RHIT model but using blocks of courses rather than one course. Modifications, in some cases extensive, were made for the fall of 1995, and each program has been expanded in terms of the numbers of students and faculty for the fall of 1996 and 1997. A typical prototype curriculum is shown in the following table.
TYPICAL FC PROTOTYPE FIRST-YEAR CURRICULUM
|8|| || || || || |
|9||Math||Sci Lab||Math||Sci Lab||Math|
| || || || || || |
|2||Engl||Engr Lab||Engl||Engr Lab||Engl|
|3|| || || |
|4|| || || |
Although we began with the Rose-Hulman model for curriculum integration, we now find that our current first-year curricula reflect the diversity of the institutions that comprise the Foundation Coalition. For example, MCCD, TAMU, TWU and UA are four campuses on which FC faculty teams have been able to maintain the FC vision while accommodating the needs of students and faculty on their individual campus.
Based on their experience in the first two years, faculty at Mesa Community College have revised the structure of their first-year curriculum to be more appropriate for their audience: mostly part-time students who may work 25-40 hours per week. Instead of requiring a block of courses that included calculus, physics, chemistry, and engineering, students can elect to take one of three course combinations, which would vary their course load from six to eleven semester hours.
Texas A&M, one of the largest engineering programs in the country, must maintain large classes for any model to be viable. This year, the FC first-year program doubled in size to nearly 200 students, with representation from 12 different majors within the college. The FC faculty team was intimately involved in the design of a large, 108-person classroom that would accommodate the FC thrust of active/cooperative learning. Although doubtful at first that combining a large classroom with a cooperative learning environment could be done, FC faculty were able to accomplish that feat and are providing new models for large engineering programs throughout the country.
Texas Woman's University has no formal engineering program, and any pre-engineering enrollment will be small. Therefore, a general studies, core course for all majors that will introduce students to applications of and careers in engineering has been designed. It promises to be a national model for a course that would provide engineering literacy and experience at a liberal arts institution.
At the University of Alabama, a large number of incoming students are not calculus-ready. Modifications in the initial program have provided access to the FC curriculum for these students and the entire first-year curriculum is well on its way to becoming institutionalized.
In the early 90s, the NSF had funded a program at TAMU that integrated several sophomore-level courses in the engineering sciences. The introductory courses in mechanics, thermodynamics, circuits, and materials were integrated to emphasize the common elements, particularly conservation principles, across all of these courses. Although each campus had the TAMU model from which to work, the resulting sophomore curricula are very different. Currently, FC sophomore courses are offered at all campuses except MCCD.
Two FC partners have been successful in implementing a curriculum design process that will result in widely accepted, firmly established integrated sophomore curricula on their campuses. The processes utilized by TAMUK and RHIT emphasized faculty inclusiveness, and will serve as models for other institutions wishing to move ahead with widespread curriculum change.
UPPER-DIVISION FC CURRICULA
The Foundation Coalition goal for the upper division of our engineering curricula is to institute change in junior and senior-level courses. Our vision is to have a sequence of new courses that spans all four years of the curriculum. The changes must provide a measure of curricular integration, involve cooperative and active learning strategies, incorporate technology-enabled learning, have well-defined assessment and evaluation activities, and build upon the skills and tools students bring from the Foundation Coalition lower-division courses. This year, upper-division courses were offered at four partner institutions.
An educational institution must share its successes to accelerate the rate of change across engineering education as a whole. Educational institutions have failed if they cannot successfully disseminate their innovations. In large part, that failure reflects the fact that to succeed innovative change must eventually be adopted by the entire engineering community and not remain scattered and isolated among a few institutions. Recognized leaders are institutions to whom others look for new ideas and processes. Conversely, recognized leaders learn from others instead of attempting to discover everything on their own.
Dissemination must come in many different forms. Just as students learn in different styles, so to do people react to new ideas and concepts from different perspectives or paradigms. Marketing concepts that are extremely successful for one group of individuals fail miserably with another distinct group. The dissemination efforts within the Foundation Coalition must appeal to a wide range of students, educators, and industrial partners.
In addition to traditional dissemination activities, the Foundation Coalition has also maintained an active presence on the World-Wide Web. The FC homepage (http://www.foundation.ua.edu) includes general information regarding the Coalition as well as a number of other specific items of interest, including a complete discussion of the assessment and evaluation (A&E) efforts taking place within the FC.
The Foundation Coalition has defined bridge programs as programs that bridge gaps between established curriculum requirements and incoming students' skills, knowledge, and/or motivation. Two partner institutions, TAMU and TAMUK, had extensive experience with bridge programs prior to the FC. ASU and TWU have recently introduced new summer bridge programs that incorporate the trusts of the FC, and all other partners are planning on establishing bridge programs this year or next.
The Foundation Coalition is developing curricula and learning environments at each institution that are accessible and provide equitable opportunity for success for all students. We are focusing on underrepresented minorities and women because these groups have a history of being significantly underrepresented as engineering graduates. This underrepresentation is due to both low initial numbers in the first year and to higher attrition rates in the engineering programs. This is a concern both nationally and at all of the FC institutions.
All FC campuses have worked to interface the FC students with appropriate targeted programs, such as brown bag luncheons, lecture series, peer tutoring, mentoring, internships, and undergraduate research, as well as organizations such as NSBE, SHPE, AISES, and SWE. In addition, research is underway on the effects of the curriculum content, teaming and cooperative learning, and technology on the underrepresented groups.
ASSESSMENT AND EVALUATION
Assessment and evaluation have been thrusts of the FC since its formation. Initially we focused on the development of Coalition-wide assessment plans as well as plans for the formative assessment of campus activities. Currently, the focus of the Coalition-wide assessment has shifted to the development and application of common assessment methods and procedures for summative evaluation, especially as it relates to the student outcomes expressed in our vision. Because of the similarities between FC student outcomes and those expressed by ABET, this will be of special interest to non-FC schools as they prepare for ABET 2000.
Several members had strong evaluation programs already in place before the Coalition was formed and offer experience in previous program evaluations. The A/E team was formed concurrently with the establishment of the Coalition, and has been the most active thrust or objective-centered team in the Coalition. Coalition-wide assessment has focused on two areas: the development of common assessments methods and procedures for the evaluation of the coalition projects, and evaluation of the six student enhancements that appear in the Foundation Coalition vision statement.
The A/E team has worked with campus teaching faculty to develop objectives and criteria for each of the six student enhancements. The summative assessment will focus on the comparison of FC students with non-FC students in similar courses. The FC goals will have been met if the performance of FC students is greater than those of non-FC students on the performance criteria.
The A/E team has developed objectives and criteria for each of the FC student enhancements. Detailed information is provided in the FC publication "Assessment and Evaluation: A Key to Successful Program Improvement." The major emphasis in all A/E activities is in supporting the continuous improvement philosophy that permeates Coalition programs, activities, and management.
The Foundation Coalition was founded on the belief that changes are needed in the established customs and practices of engineering education for the sake of the graduates, the profession, and even society. If an institution continually experiments with innovations, but fails to capitalize on demonstrated success by imbedding those innovations within the institutional structure and culture, then the institutional potential offered by innovation will be left essentially unrealized. To fully benefit from creative and productive innovations, institutions must be highly disciplined in the process of moving from prototype program to a fully integrated implementation of innovation within the institutional culture and structure. Of particular interest to the Foundation Coalition is setting in place the concept of a curriculum that is dynamic, continuously adaptive, and fully institutionalized as it evolves. If an institution simply implements a "revised curriculum," and then abandons iterative evaluation and improvement of this curriculum over time, then the efforts have failed and the resources lost. The FC is involved in investigating and developing change management processes, an effort that will continue for several years. This, too, will provide a valuable resource to institutions desiring to make changes in the engineering education experience they offer their students.
In order that the changes made at FC campuses outlive NSF support, efforts must be made to institutionalize a new culture in engineering education. Each FC campus will establish their own unique institutionalization process and plan, but we will also capitalize on the effects of having a coalition of schools working on similar tasks.
FC partner institutions have set goals for the expansion of the curricula to more students and in more areas. They all have considered efforts required to gain on-campus support among faculty, administrators and students. In addition, they have considered the approaches needed to expand the FC developments to non-FC faculty and campuses. Finally the utilization of industry partners in the marketing of the FC developments has been initiated.
OVERALL STRATEGY FOR THE FUTURE
At the core of our vision for the future is the successful transformation of the 20th century engineering education process, one that was essentially steady-state, at most occasionally punctuated by discrete, isolated reforms, to a 21st century engineering education process, a continuous process that is expansive, inclusive and integrative of the people, curriculum, and technologies that collectively shape and advance our engineering enterprise, both in universities and industry. The simple development of new curricular products does not, by itself, meet either the vision or the mission established by the Foundation Coalition. During the coming years the FC will focus on the processes involved in changing the culture or environment of an institution.
To illustrate, the eight established objectives of the Foundation Coalition may be viewed as a matrix. The four rows of the matrix are the product objectives: freshman curricula, sophomore curricula, upper-division curricula, and transition programs. The columns of the matrix are objectives that span the four product objectives and may be thought of as process objectives: assessment and evaluation, underrepresented groups, dissemination, and institutionalization. Emphasis in years 6-10 will shift from the development of products to developing, practicing, and documenting the processes involved.
This paper could not have been written without the substantial input of the following FC faculty and staff, and their assistance is gratefully acknowledged.
The NSF Foundation Coalition is supported under NSF Cooperative Agreement EEC-9221460
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