Community Building for the NSF PFE: RIEF Program: Year 2

Karin Jensen, Kelly J. Cross, Joseph Francis Mirabelli, Mia Ko, Jeanne L. Sanders

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


In an effort to support research in professional engineering formation and expand the community of researchers in engineering education, the NSF has supported teams of engineering faculty and engineering education mentors through the NSF Research Initiation in Engineering Formation (RIEF) program. The RIEF program offers two years of funding for research projects conducted by engineering faculty new to the field of engineering education research who are trained in education methods by an experienced mentor. Since 2016, the PFE: RIEF program has supported more than 45 projects across over 45 institutions. The project seeks to understand best practices of mentor-mentee relationships between engineering education researchers and engineering faculty entering the engineering education research field. This exploratory, phenomenologically informed [1], qualitative study was guided with Cognitive Apprentice Model (CAM) framework [2]. Participating in the RIEF program raised questions for the authors and suggested multiple challenges for program participants. Our results suggest identifying a mentor as a critical challenge for both past program participants and those interested in applying to the program. This is a particularly untenable challenge for faculty who are located at institutions that do not have researchers with expertise in education research methods. Additional challenges cited to enter the engineering education field included lack of student programs, working with mentors who are located at different institutions, balancing engineering education research with other faculty roles, and navigating power dynamics. To address this need, in this paper we describe our networking events for RIEF program participants and for potential program participants to connect with mentors in engineering education. The networking events are designed to reduce these barriers to entry into engineering education research by facilitating mentor-mentee introductions and providing time and resources to discuss power dynamics as well as balancing new research projects. The networking events will seek to match interested participants to facilitate future application to the NSF RIEF program. The networking events will be held as part of the regional and national American Society for Engineering Education conferences. Participants will be asked to complete informational introduction mini-posters to be shared with the groups to promote establishing collaborations between researchers with shared interests and synergistic strengths. The networking event will include a presentation leveraging findings from the research component of the project to recommend best mentorship practices to attendees and to advise them about unexpected barriers reported by study participants. In addition to the networking events, through the project we have also developed a website with curated resources for researchers entering the field of engineering education research. Plans for the networking events will be shared along with feedback from past participants. Ultimately, the project seeks to develop a framework for an effective community for engineering faculty to develop and sustain engagement in engineering education research that will expand beyond the NSF PFE: RIEF program.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jul 26 2021
Event2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2021 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jul 26 2021Jul 29 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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