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Mel Chua's dissertation proposal, v.0.1

Mel Chua's dissertation proposal, v.0.1

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Published by Mel Chua

An early draft of my prelim proposal for my PhD in Engineering Education at Purdue. If I'm figuring out how to do "radically transparent research," I'd better do it for my dissertation -- so here goes. Comments welcome; my goal for the Spring 2013 semester is to revise this into a prelim proposal that I can defend in early Fall 2013.

An early draft of my prelim proposal for my PhD in Engineering Education at Purdue. If I'm figuring out how to do "radically transparent research," I'd better do it for my dissertation -- so here goes. Comments welcome; my goal for the Spring 2013 semester is to revise this into a prelim proposal that I can defend in early Fall 2013.

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Categories:Types, School Work
Published by: Mel Chua on Jan 08, 2013
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Supporting faculty sense-making of educational transformation through transparent cross-institutional mentoring

Keywords: curricular transformation, sensemaking, cognitive apprentice, transparency Questions: How do STEM faculty make sense of their experiences during a curricular change process? How does engaging in cross-institutional mentorship impact their sensemaking? How do practices of transparency support this sense-making mentorship? Background: STEM education transformation has been an ongoing critical need. Successful participation in transformational change at an institution relies on an individual's ability to make sense of their role in the ongoing process[1]. Innovation in undergraduate STEM education requires faculty with fluency in transformational change, yet sensemaking and other key aspects of change knowledge are “unfamiliar to most higher education institutions”[2]. Neither faculty[3] nor adminstrators[4] use journal articles to guide their change processes; scholarly accounts of transformation in undergraduate STEM education are generally retroactive, anecdotal, and sparse. Instead, change practices spread via 1:1 contact[3,4], where informal mentoring in the form of cognitive apprenticeships “makes thinking visible,” enabling both individual and collaborative reflective practice[5]. The intervention described in this study seeks to lower barriers (e.g., time and cost) to faculty access of cross-institutional mentorships. Strategy: The purpose of this proposal is to explore an innovative and potentially highimpact approach to STEM education transformation. I will capture narratives of practice from faculty at one institution undergoing a curricular change process and use them to elicit reflections from faculty at a second institution that has successfully completed the same type of curricular change. When done repeatedly during over a school year, this intervention is expected to scaffold cross-institutional mentoring where faculty at both institutions help each other make sense of their change practices. Using transparent collaboration techniques employed for cognitive apprenticeships in successful open communities[6] allows mentoring to occur in an asynchronous and distributed manner, requiring fewer resources than in-person interactions and enabling peripheral participation by others interested in curricular change who may use and contribute to an open collection of rich, in-situ stories of transformation in STEM education. Site criteria: The two schools participating in the study (hereafter “School A” and “School B” should fit the following criteria:  School B should be at the start of a curriculum revision with a specific focus

 School A should have a curriculum that reflects the focus desired by School B, and that curriculum should have been running at School A for at least one full school year  At least 4 faculty members involved in the curriculum implementation at School A should still be available for interviews  Both should have similar philosophies towards student involvement in things like curricular design Project Plan and Timeline:


(S=summer, F=fall, Sp=spring terms)

S1 x x x







Admin: IRB, hiring undergraduate researchers, etc. In-person summer meetings of participants (1-5 days long) Pre/post narrative interviews with faculty, administrators Intervention: faculty narratives elicited, annotated, shared Grounded theory analysis conducted on narrative data Dissemination: open-access release of dataset & analysis Community: in-person faculty workshops, virtual storytelling circles

x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x


x x

Intervention Project details: Distributed, asynchronous cross-institutional mentoring

1) A semi-structured protocol is used to elicit narratives from faculty at School B on their ongoing curricular change process. I “listen in” on interviews using remote Communication Access Realtime Transcription (CART), a $120/hr service used to provide classroom access to deaf students. CART This makes live transcripts immediately and privately visible during the interview to enable quick participant checking and immediate entry of the change practice narrative into the open dataset. 2) School B narratives from (1) are summarized and annotated with change practice analysis.

3) Annotated narrative summaries from (2) are used as an artifact to elicit mentoring and change practice narratives from faculty at School A on their past curricular change sensemaking process. CART is again used for remote supervision and immediate transcription. 4) Transcribed narratives from School A are summarized and analyzed for change practices, and are shared with School B faculty for the next round of narrative elicitation (1). This cycle repeats 2-3 times a semester for 2 semesters (4-6 total storytelling rounds).

Intellectual Merit: (1) Research findings that advance our limited understanding of STEM education transformation, (2) research-informed modifications to faculty workshops including tools to elicit and share knowledge of change practices of attendees from broad contexts, (3) an analysis of the feasibility, desirability, and viability of using real-time transparency techniques to support cross-institutional mentoring. Broader Impact: Target audiences are (1) researchers and practitioners in faculty development and curricular change, (2) engineering and technology programs engaged in a curricular change effort, (3) participating faculty and students at School A and School B, and (4) future faculty workshop attendees. Outputs include (1) open-licensed and annotated sensemaking narratives of both retrospective and in-situ faculty accounts of STEM curriculum change processes and practices, including cross-institutional mentoring and (2) monthly virtual storytelling circles to support interested people in making their own curricular change stories visible. Citations:

[1]Smerek, R. (2010). Sensemaking and Sensegiving: An Exploratory Study of the Simultaneous "Being and Learning" of New College and University Presidents. J Leadership & Org Stud, 18(1), 80–94. [2]Kezar, A., & Eckel, P. (2002). Examining the Institutional Transformation Process: The Importance of Sensemaking, Interrelated Strategies, and Balance. Research in Higher Ed, 43(3), 295–328. [3]Fincher, S., et al. (2012). Stories of Change: How Educators Change Their Practice. Proc Frontiers in Edu Conf. Paper presented at FIE, Seattle: IEEE. [4]Borrego, M., Froyd, J. E., & Hall, T. S. (2010). Diffusion of Engineering Education Innovations: A Survey of Awareness and Adoption Rates in U.S. Engineering Departments. J Engr Edu, 99(3), 185–207. [5]Collins, A., Brown, J. S., & Holum, A. (1991). Cognitive apprenticeship: making thinking visible. American Educator, 6, 38–46.

[6]Ellis, H. J. C., Hislop, G. W., Chua, M., & Dziallas, S. (2012). How to Involve Students in FOSS Projects. Proc Frontiers in Edu Conf. Paper presented at FIE, Rapid City: IEEE.

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