CAREER: Interdisciplinary Graduate Education in Engineering

The purpose of this engineering education CAREER proposal is to develop and test a theory of the development of interdisciplinary work ability in the context of graduate education in engineering. The motivation for this research is the increasing globalization and international competition, which drive renewed efforts to prepare adaptable engineers who can work in interdisciplinary environments. The following research questions will be addressed: 1. How do engineering graduate students develop deep awareness of multiple (disciplinary) epistemologies? and 2. What do successful engineering faculty and programs do to encourage this type of intellectual development in graduate students? A mixed methods approach will be used, in which the first question will be addressed through rigorous interview and observation methods, while the second employs surveys to test the validity and generalizability of the initial theory. Embedded in both phases is development of assessment tools interdisciplinary learning, both a growth rubric and a survey-style instrument. 

The overall setting for studying interdisciplinary graduate education will be sites funded through NSF's IGERT (Integrative Graduate Education Research and Training) initiative. Four IGERTs representing 6 engineering/computing disciplines and 20 other disciplines will provide the setting to study a wide range of interactions: engineer-engineer, engineer-scientist, engineer-social scientist, engineer-artist, engineer-businessperson, and others. The proposed work comprises development of the theory via qualitative techniques, testing of the theory via survey research, and sharing of the results through workshops at the partner institutions.