May 2, 2019
We are pleased to congratulate Dr. John Morelock, who has won the Faculty Development Constituent Committee’s (FDCC) best paper award for the 2019 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition. Dr. Morelock is EETI’s Associate Director for Educational Innovation and Impact, and his research primarily focuses on engineering educational development and institutional change. His paper is entitled Academic change from theory to practice: Examples from UGA’s Engineering Education Transformations Institute, and it is part of a larger panel project entitled Connecting Theory with Practice: Four Change Projects in Faculty Development for Engineering.
This panel paper describes examples of connecting academic change theories to practice in the formation and operation of the Engineering Education Transformations Institute (EETI) at the University of Georgia, and the lessons learned in change project spearheaded by EETI. Particularly, since its inception in early 2017, EETI built its foundation on complex systems theories of change. Throughout EETI’s development and growth, the leadership team has leveraged theory for three distinct purposes: (1) generative use of theory to draft the Institute’s strategic goals, (2) pragmatic use of theory to guide EETI’s operations in practice, and (3) reflective use of theory to more cohesively tell EETI’s story to-date. Generatively, in order to foster a positive culture around teaching and learning in [University]’s College of Engineering, EETI has built its strategic mission and objectives in alignment with systems thinking principles outlined by Donella Meadows (2001). Pragmatically, in adapting this theory to practice, the authors and their colleagues at EETI host faculty learning communities at several levels (from bimonthly, college-wide gathering, to individual project team meetings) to learn about engineering faculty interests and provide faculty the resources and support they need to pursue teaching and learning projects of interest to them. In accordance with complex systems theories of change, EETI’s leadership does not expect cultural change and shared vision to materialize overnight, but rather posit that valuing diverse faculty member contributions to a college-wide learning community and planting seeds that lead to repeated opportunities for collaboration will eventually lead the pursuit of teaching and learning projects to become a regular part of the College’s culture. Reflectively, EETI leadership has found that ecological design–an engineering design framework rooted in integrating designs with complex ecological systems–provides a powerful analogy to explain EETI’s mission and position within the College of Engineering, with the related idea of permaculture (Holmgren, 2002) offering a particularly salient metaphor.
During the panel, the authors will provide an overview of how EETI’s theoretical foundations have informed its change projects, and the results of these activities have manifested in relation to those theoretical foundations. The authors will also discuss lessons learned to-date, including challenges in pragmatically adapting theory to practice and in the use of system feedback for formative assessment.
Holmgren, D. (2002). Permaculture: Principles & Pathways Beyond Sustainability: Holmgren Design Services.
Meadows, D. (2008). Thinking in Systems: A Primer (D. Wright Ed.). White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing.