IUSE/PFE:RED A&I: Soft Wired Teaming for Creating Opportunities to Revolutionize the Preparation of Students (TCORPS) through Building, Testing and Sharing Pedagogical Improvem
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This project will revolutionize the culture of a traditional large mechanical engineering department at Texas A&M University. It will be focused on creating a bottom-up participatory culture where faculty and students are engaged in continuously building, testing, and sharing sequential innovations in curricula and pedagogy. Studies have shown that academic departments are complex systems with faculty who have different levels of acceptance of change, of any sort, but especially in teaching styles and self-image. Teaching style and self-image as a teacher are generally informed by their own experiences as to what constitutes good teaching rather than the scholarly study of teaching. This project will leverage these attitudes toward teaching, primarily based on experiences by empowering faculty to create “loose-wired” teams that propose a vision for change and a minimum viable product based on their interests. Rather than focus on training them on “how to teach,” the project will train these teams for implementing changes, measuring educational outcomes, and sharing the results, all carried out through adapting and extending the additive innovations model that was proposed by the RED program of Arizona State University. These faculty changes cover a wide spectrum, ranging from changing the curriculum to appeal to a more diverse group of students (especially underrepresented minorities) by relating the subject matter to their experience, fostering a collaborative versus competitive learning environment for students, to identifying and using technology to enhance student learning. The teaching approaches, outcomes, and change processes will be broadly disseminated to other departments through informal discussion teams as well as the Institute for Engineering Education and Innovation (IEEI). The project will operationalize a cultural change based on the Prochaska change model composed of five steps: contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance with continuous effort to overcome relapse. Interested faculty groups will be provided with a framework for change based on developing a novel Educational Value Canvas to systematically explore the implications of change, and they will also be trained to use an iterative innovation approach. Both tools are based on the NSF-developed ICORPS model, adapted to an educational innovation setting. This project will address several key hypotheses: 1) that facilitation of small-batch iterative experimentation and sharing among peers will lower risk and time commitment and increase documentation and systematic incorporation of innovations; 2) that change can be better achieved in a large department through the distributed percolation based upon trained facilitators and change agents, supported by departmental resources and revised faculty performance evaluation criteria; 3) that an improved shared vision can be achieved through the use of the new Educational Value Canvas facilitated using the Antigua Forum meeting format; and 4) that if faculty model proactive innovation behavior in both our research and teaching, then it will improve this capability in students as well. The proposal will develop approaches for training on recognizing implicit bias, inclusive projects, and pedagogy development, what motivates faculty to change, how to make active classrooms work for different types of classes, how to use the lean startup approach to change, and how to carry out pedagogical research. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.