Collaborative Research: Are Engineering Departments Adopting Engineering Education Innovations? A National Survey to Assess Contributing Factors

This research will use a survey to understand and ultimately accelerate adoption of proven engineering education innovations. The survey of 1,727 department heads, 271 academic deans, and 28 professional society leaders will test 14 hypotheses related to 8 engineering education innovations. Diffusion of Innovations theory, which emphasizes stages of the adoption process and the importance of social networks, will guide this research. The project outcomes include assessment of prior efforts at diffusing engineering education innovations, deeper understanding of dissemination mechanisms leading to specific recommendations, and increased awareness of eight established engineering education innovations through the survey process itself. Over the past 15 years, tremendous effort and funding have been invested in improving engineering education and producing innovations. The eight innovations that will be investigated in this project are Engineering Diversity Programs, Summer Bridge Programs, Learning Communities and Integrated Curricula, Design Projects in First-year Engineering Courses, Artifact Dissection, Student-active Pedagogies, Curriculum-based Engineering Service-learning Projects, and Interdisciplinary Capstone Design Projects. The 14 hypotheses will explore factors relating to dissemination, adoption, transportability, and success of the innovations. 

Improving engineering education to produce engineers who are better prepared for the future global economy is vital to the nation?s competitiveness. This survey directly addresses the effects the investments made in innovations in engineering and, through dissemination, has the potential to multiply that investment by informing a wide range of dissemination strategies and engineering administration customers. Applying Diffusion of Innovations theory to engineering education is a potentially transformative approach that may fundamentally change our thinking about engineering education reform. The data and analysis will provide new insight into decisions to adopt an engineering education innovation, which will contribute to both theory and practice.