Highlights from Journal of Engineering Education 2023

What did we learn about engineering education in 2023? Here are six highlights from one of the top journals.

The following is a post that I wrote for the MTEI Teaching Tip blog during my term as MTEI’s associate director.

The Journal of Engineering Education is a peer-reviewed international journal published quarterly by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). Here are six highlights of broad interest to Cornell faculty from the 2023 publication year.

What did we learn from pandemic about how to keep students connected?

The paper: Connection and alienation during the COVID-19 pandemic: The narratives of four engineering students. By McIntyre, Rohde, Clements, and Godwin (Cornell, CBE, MTEI).

The findings: “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted, exacerbated, and caused many challenges within engineering education. At the same time, the pandemic provided opportunities for engineering educators to learn from forced change to promote strategic efforts to improve classroom engagement and connection to better support engineering students…We conducted longitudinal narrative interviews with four White women engineering students from different universities in their third and fourth years…[These] provided insights into how students were stressed and disconnected from their education in undesirable ways. The findings also provide insight into how those same students received support and maintained a connection to their institution, advisors, and instructors that educators could emulate.” Further:

  • “Create an open dialogue about individual student needs.”
  • “Respond to students’ needs outside the four walls of the classroom.”
  • “Provide opportunities for connections to the university through practices and traditions outside norms of high stress and overwork.”
  • “Consider the implications of administrative policies on student success and well-being.”
  • “Set high expectations and provide high support.”
  • “Acknowledge the critical role advisors play in student navigation and support.”
  • “Encourage students to develop and leverage professional networks.”

Which matters more: Course prerequisites or student attitudes?

The paper: Investigating students’ motivational goals and self-efficacy and task beliefs in relationship to course attendance and prior knowledge in an undergraduate statics course. By Hunsu, Olaogun, Oje, Carnell, and Morkos.

The findings: “Student persistence in undergraduate engineering majors often depends on how they perform in foundational engineering courses. A multiple regression analysis was conducted using achievement goals, self-efficacy for learning performance, task value, absence, and prior knowledge as predictor variables, and participants’ achievement scores as the outcome variable. [T]he combined effect of self-efficacy [beliefs in one’s capability to organize and execute the course of action required to manage prospective situations] and task-value beliefs [the perceived quality of a task and … preference for selecting said task] on achievement was larger than that of prior knowledge alone.”

What keeps engineering students from seeking mental-health help?

The paper: Mental health in undergraduate engineering students: Identifying facilitators and barriers to seeking help. By Wright, Wilson, Hammer, Hargis, Miller, and Usher.

The findings: “Engineering students encounter high levels of stress, which may negatively impact their mental health. Nevertheless, engineering students who experience mental health distress are less likely than their peers to seek professional help, even when controlling for gender and race/ethnicity…We examined beliefs that undergraduate engineering students have about barriers and facilitators to seeking professional help for their mental health. We identified four themes: Navigating the system impacts personal agency; sacrifices associated with help-seeking act as a barrier; engineering culture acts as a barrier to help-seeking; and student confidence in help-seeking varies significantly.”

Do we still need to teach engineering writing now that we have ChatGPT?

The paper: We still need to teach engineers to write in the era of ChatGPT (Guest Editorial). By Berdanier and Alley.

The findings: “Many faculty may wonder whether the ability to self-generate text will go the way of the slide rule—becoming a quaint relic of the past. Historically, a reason for teaching engineering writing is to prepare our future engineering workforce to communicate their ideas with each other, to users, and to the public. Most faculty hope that our students would pursue meaningful and high-impact positions in industries that are at the forefront of technology. If our undergraduate and graduate students are to work in transformative areas, we need to arm them with the ability to communicate the value of novel ideas in the face of dominant narratives and pre-existing knowledge…This guest editorial is framed around two propositions regarding why we still need to teach engineering writing: First, to teach students to write is to teach them to think; and second, AI is a tool and not a replacement for teaching writing.”

How do engineering faculty view professional skills as part of the curriculum?

The paper: Understanding professional skills in engineering education: A phenomenographic study of faculty conceptions. By Beagon and Bowe.

The findings: “For engineering programs to address the needs of society, graduates must have the skills to tackle future challenges. Transformation will only be successful if faculty fully engage in all curriculum design aspects; however, little is known about how faculty view professional skills. This understanding is critical if we wish to support and encourage their participation in the transformation effort…Faculty revealed their conceptions of professional skills in six ways: communication skills, technical skills, enabling skills, a combination of skills, interpersonal behaviors, and acting professionally. Findings revealed a tension between technical and nontechnical skills. The study highlights that engineering education must focus on behaviors and interactions between people rather than technical skills alone.”

Should we use Zoom to proctor exams?

The paper: Students’ technological ambivalence toward online proctoring and the need for responsible use of educational technologies. By Johri and Hingle.

The findings: “We present a framework of how a technological shift of existing practice triggered ambivalence that manifested itself as a sustained negative outlook among students regarding the use of video-based monitoring (VbM), as well as their institution and instructors. Students accepted the inevitability of the technology but were unconvinced that the benefits of VbM outweighed its risks.”