Work in progress: A qualitative study of mentorship, training needs, and community for new engineering education researchers

Joseph F. Mirabelli, Allyson Jo Barlow, Mia Ko, Kelly J. Cross, Karin Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


In this Work in Progress paper, we describe the initial insights from our study on mentorship of engineering faculty entering the engineering education research (EER) community. Recent funding opportunities have made it possible for traditionally trained engineering faculty to pursue research interests in EER. One such funding opportunity, the National Science Foundation's Professional Formation of Engineers: Research Initiation in Engineering Formation (NSF PFE: RIEF) grant supports the integration of engineering faculty in EER through mentorship. RIEF awardees are self-selected pairings of experienced engineering education researchers and engineering faculty seeking to enter the field. RIEF PI grantees are engineering faculty who are novice to formalized EER, yet who are experts within their own engineering discipline. Engineering faculty frequently have little experience conducting rigorous research using established social science theories and methods. RIEF mentors are experienced engineering education researchers. Mentorship in the context of a RIEF grant is unique, as it is different from graduate student training or peer mentorship between faculty in the same discipline. Common conceptions of mentorship include a novice receiving guidance from an expert, whereas RIEF PIs and co-PIs are both experts in their own domains. Mentoring relationships between faculty are understudied, especially in the context of faculty with expertise in different disciplines that have unique training needs. Therefore, we have proposed to study mentorship between engineering faculty mentees and EER scholars participating in the RIEF program. Our study aims to uncover salient factors related to successful outcomes of mentoring relationships, as well as to understand the challenges participants encountered. We leverage in-depth, semi-structured qualitative interviews to better understand the experience of both EER mentors and engineering faculty mentees at various stages of completion on their RIEF project. Through an initial thematic coding analysis of a subset of our interview data, we propose there are several key factors relating to both positive RIEF experiences and challenges within mentorship relationships. These factors include the proximity of researchers (e.g. same institution or different institution), the style of mentorship preferred by mentor and mentee, the ability for mentees to network within the EER community, the academic rank of the mentor and mentee, and the interpersonal relationships between RIEF grantee pairings. The aim of the present work is to illuminate the ways in which these findings resonate within the EER community, as well as to move towards impactful distribution of future results. The outcomes of the study are related to a larger project which will fuse our team's experience hosting workshops, networking with RIEF grantees, and developing training materials for faculty joining the EER community. Developing an understanding of best practices for faculty-faculty peer mentorship can increase the likelihood of success with sustained engagement in EER. Such opportunities are critical to the discipline of EER moving forward, expanding to include those from diverse professional backgrounds and experiences. Divergent experiences bring critical new perspectives to address the ongoing goal of positively impacting the overall engineering education experience of students.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1645
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 22 2020
Event2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference, ASEE 2020 - Virtual, Online
Duration: Jun 22 2020Jun 26 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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