Understanding how a culture of collaboration develops among STEM faculty

Kelly J. Cross, Natasha Aniceto Mamaril, Nicole Johnson, Geoffrey L. Herman

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Many stakeholders have called for education reform and particularly regarding the outdated manner in which we generally educate engineers. As a result, understanding dissemination and implementation tactics of research-based instructional strategies (RBIS) has emerged as a critical topic within engineering education research. Additionally funding agencies such as the NSF, have encouraged interdisciplinary projects where STEM faculty work with education experts to apply innovations in teaching. However, how to make these joint ventures successful is less well understood. For example, collaboration in engineering education research typically focuses on student teams or how professional engineering teams learn to work together. Fewer studies articulate how to motivate engineering faculty to interact across engineering disciplines, let alone, with non-engineering faculty such as educational experts. Therefore, the research team sought to understand, how can we develop a culture of collaboration among STEM faculty around the issue of implementing teaching innovation including RBIS's? The specific guiding research question for the current study is how do faculty in STEM describe their experience participating in the Strategic Instructional Innovations Program (SIIP) - a program designed to promote and support the implementation of teaching innovation? This qualitative study employs an exploratory phenomenological approach, using semistructured interviews with 12 STEM faculty across academic ranks. The participants worked on a collaborative team project(s) to implement teaching innovations at a Midwestern large researchintensive, predominantly white institution (PWI). The project durations ranged from one to three years for sustainable implementation of teaching innovations. The semi-structured interviews covered the participant's previous teaching experience prior to joining the SIIP community, a description of their current role in the community including what did and did not work well, and a description of their vision for the community in the future. Consistent with phenomenological research, the interviews were evaluated holistically to allow essential themes of the experience to emerge. Preliminary results of the phenomenological analysis suggest three emergent themes. First, the participants specified the entry point for implementing instructional innovation. That is to say, the departmental culture was emphasized as a key structural support to ensure the sustainability of the implemented innovation. The second emergent theme articulated by the participants, was the recognition of individual skills and abilities within the SIIP community. Specifically, the expanded peer interaction fostered an environment for complimentary skills to thrive. For example, some of the STEM faculty were more comfortable than others with flipping their classroom, particularly with large service courses with over 100 students, and were able to share best practices or personal success stories. Finally, most participants acknowledge a significant shift in their appreciation for teaching and learning including the scholarship of teaching. In conclusion these combined emergent themes suggest that faculty in STEM require structural and social support such as a community of practice to engage in activities to successfully establish a culture of collaboration when implementing instructional innovation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 26 2016
Event123rd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - New Orleans, United States
Duration: Jun 26 2016Jun 29 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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