International Perspective on Engineering Education

Leading up to the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Annual Conference in Indianapolis, several international scholars visited Purdue University to meet with faculty and graduate students in the School of Engineering Education.

One of them was Arnold Pears, associate professor at Uppsala University in Sweden. He leads the Computer Science Education Research group, which includes faculty and PhD students. They are investigating two areas: Development and assessment of professional competence, and identity.

“We are unique in the sense that we don’t propose to just consolidate the research that already exists,” Dr. Pears says. “Our mission is to try to broaden the base of research, so that all teaching and learning in the faculty of natural sciences and technology will be supported by appropriate, basic research in higher education theory and the disciplines.”

Lena Gumaelius is head of the Department of Learning at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. She’s spent the past several years building up the research environment in the Department.

“The research we are doing is engineering education in a broader sense,” Dr. Gumaelius says. “We work with engineering education and engineering education K-12.”

Dr. Gumaelius says other research areas include sustainability, organization management, E-learning, and outreach and attractiveness efforts to get more young people interested in STEM.

Bill Williams is a lecturer at the Barriero School of Technology in the Polytechnic Institute of Setubal, Portugal. He and a colleague are comparing the emergence of engineering education research in Portugal and Ireland.

“The data show that there is some emergence of engineering education research that perhaps there wasn’t ten years ago,” Williams says, “but very much, little, tiny, green shoots.”

He says Ireland is further along with one institution founding a research center last year and offering a PhD program.

“In Portugal, there isn’t a PhD program in engineering education research (EER),” Williams says. “There are PhDs related to EER, but it has to be something else – fit into some other program like engineering management.”