Degree Granting Department
Adult, Career and Higher Education
Doctoral Students, Engineering Education, Faculty Development, Graduate Education, Qualitative Research
Conceptions of learning and teaching shape teaching practices and are, therefore, important to understanding how engineering professors learn to teach. There is abundant research about professors' conceptions of teaching; however, research on the conceptions of teaching of doctoral students, the future professors, is scarce. Furthermore, there is a need to understand not just future engineering professors' conceptions of teaching but also their conceptions of learning. The purpose of this study was to explore qualitative variations in future engineering professors' conceptions of learning and teaching as well as understanding how they came to these conceptions.
The research questions that guided this qualitative study are the following: 1) How do future engineering professors describe their conceptions of learning engineering?, 2) How do future engineering professors describe the basis of their conceptions of learning engineering?, 3) How do future engineering professors describe their conceptions of teaching engineering?, and 4) How do future engineering professors describe the basis of their conceptions of teaching engineering?
Twenty doctoral engineering students interested in academic careers were interviewed. A phenomenographic approach was used to explore variations in conceptions of learning and teaching. The basis of conceptions of learning and teaching were explored using thematic analysis.
Six variations in future engineering professors' conceptions of learning engineering emerged and included learning engineering as 1) acquiring knowledge, 2) gaining an understanding, 3) practicing problem solving, 4) applying knowledge, 5) developing an approach, and 6) maturing. Each conception of learning was described by seven dimensions or features: focus, nature of knowledge, view of engineering, strategies, assessments, interactions, and relational. Participants described the basis for their conceptions of learning engineering through four general themes: undergraduate student experience, research, graduate school experience, and prior teaching experiences.
Five categories of conceptions of teaching engineering emerged and included teaching engineering as 1) delivering knowledge, 2) helping understand and apply concepts, 3) motivating students, 4) helping students learn how to approach problems, and 5) preparing students to make socially conscious decisions. In describing conceptions of teaching, five dimensions were identified: focus, strategies, use of students' prior knowledge, faculty-student interaction, conception of learning, and projects. Observing professors, student experience, talking about teaching, and teaching experience were described by participants as the basis for their conceptions of teaching engineering.
The findings of this study are consistent with previous categorizations of university professors' conceptions of teaching from teacher-centered/content-oriented to student-centered/learning-oriented. However, this study contributes to the literature of engineering education and faculty development by contextualizing the conceptions of learning and teaching of future engineering professors. Furthermore, this study provides richer descriptions of variations in other aspects of teaching and learning engineering such as future professors' views on student interactions, student development, assessment, motivation, problem solving, assumptions about knowledge, teaching and learning strategies.
In addition, this study contributes to our understanding of how professors learn about teaching. In particular, the exploration of the basis for the conceptions of learning and teaching opens new avenues to explore how conceptions of teaching and learning evolve over time. This study closes with implications for faculty development and suggestions for further research.
Scholar Commons Citation
Torres Ayala, Ana Teresa, "Future Engineering Professors' Conceptions of Learning and Teaching Engineering" (2013). USF Tampa Graduate Theses and Dissertations.