More on Educational Engineering

This post originally appeared on the Software Carpentry website.

In my experience, the term "educational engineers" doesn't seem to have caught on to describe any particular activity, but I can provide some examples of people bringing ideas from the research to inform teaching. There's a range depending on what counts as "building".

The "Scholarship of Teaching and Learning" generally refers to efforts of individuals involved in post-secondary teaching to improve their teaching by getting ideas from the research literature, collecting evidence, and reporting back in publications and presentations. "Action Research" is largely along the same lines, though tends to be the term used more in K-12 settings. More substantial research programmes that may involve non-instructor researchers and an attempt to discover more generalizable results within the teaching of a certain field can fall under the heading of "Discipline-Based Education Research", for example the development of a reliable concept inventory to measure student learning and misconceptions with respect to a certain topic. These are all related and there aren't especially clear divisions between these spheres (more detail here) but in terms of educational research overall these are on the very applied end, usually involving studies in actual classrooms and very connected to the teaching culture within the particular field.

For about 8 years now at the University of British Columbia, we have had the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative, which uses a model of discipline-based experts (usually people with a graduate degree in the relevant field of science and some teaching experience) embedded in our science departments to collaborate with faculty on improving teaching. This includes measuring of student learning and reporting out as possible, where published work would tend to be considered Discipline-Based Education Research. Our local title for these people is "Science Teaching and Learning Fellow", but with their strong focus on implementation of research-based teaching practices, I have described them as "educational engineers" sometimes (I am currently coordinating the initiative). The University of Colorado at Boulder had a similar initiative that has already wound up, and many institutions are now attempting some form of the model of embedded experts working with faculty on teaching improvement projects. I should add that a portion of the funding has gone to buying out teaching of faculty in order for them to be able to participate in these projects (e.g., teach one fewer course in a year) which creates the extremely important "time for practice" that Greg mentions.

More about the Science Teaching and Learning Fellow role here and more about our initiative, plus a variety of resources and research results at

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