Mapping the engineering education research landscape in Australia

Publisher:
Australasian Association for Engineering Education
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Citation:
Proceedings of the 24th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education - AAEE2013, 2013, pp. 1 - 10
Issue Date:
2013-01
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BACKGROUND Engineering education research is still consolidating as a recognised research area in Australian universities. A current project funded by the US National Science Foundation is attempting to develop a taxonomy for engineering education as a research area. Our project takes a slightly different perspective by using a landscape model to describe engineering education as a knowledge domain that includes a variety of areas of endeavour. PURPOSE This paper is motivated by questions around the range of topics being addressed in the AAEE community and as a means of initiating a discussion about how we define, evaluate, understand and move within our research domain. APPROACH This paper reports data collected as part of a wider project examining the peer review process for the Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE) annual conference. During semistructured interviews nineteen participants used one or two coloured adhesive stars to locate their paper on a model of the engineering education research landscape presented in this paper. The location of the stars was then analysed in relation to various elements of the model and the explanations were coded in NVivo 10 for themes relating to the star location. OUTCOMES All participants could locate the topic of their conference paper on the presented model, and articulate clearly why their star belonged in the selected location demonstrating an individual understanding of the focus and outcomes of their research. Not surprisingly most stars were clustered in the `teaching and learning of engineering element or on one of the trajectories leading to it. This reflects that for many participants, their educational publications are inextricably linked to their practice of teaching engineering. Interestingly, there were strong voices from participants across all expertise levels and university types against a perceived move to make the annual AAEE conference focus on theoretical research. This was seen as a move towards exclusivity and a lack of acceptance for practice-based studies. CONCLUSIONS The landscape model presented in this paper successfully stimulated dialogue around both the nature and the areas of research in our community and allowed participants to appreciate where they are positioned in the landscape. Such a dialogue will help us define our research domain and support both colleagues and postgraduate students seeking to participate in or move within it. We suggest it can also be used to dissipate some of the tensions developing in AAEE about the standard and value of research. We argue that a practice versus theoretical research dichotomy is ultimately divisive and that our national conference should provide a forum for all authors in an environment aimed at improving the quality of publications and the development of academics wherever they are in the landscape.
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