The Five I’s: A Framework for Supporting Early Career Faculty
This theory paper describes the development and use of a framework for supporting early career faculty development, especially in competitive National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER proposals. Engineering Education Research (EER) has developed into a field of expertise and a career pathway over the past three decades. In response to numerous reports in the 1990s and early 2000s, multiple EER graduate programs were established in the mid-2000s and a growing number continue to emerge to educate and train the next generation of EER faculty and policy makers. Historically, many came to EER as individuals trained in other disciplines, but with an interest in improving teaching and learning. This approach created an interdisciplinary space where many could learn the norms, practices, and language of EER, as they became scholars. This history combined with the emergence of EER as a discipline with academic recognition; specific knowledge, frameworks, methodologies, and ways of conducting research; and particular emphasis and goals, creates a tension for building capacity to continue to develop EER and also include engineering education researchers who have not completed PhDs in an engineering education program. If EER is to continue to develop and emerge as a strong and robust discipline with high quality engineering education research, support mechanisms must be developed to both recognize outstanding EER scholars and develop the next generation of researchers in the field.
The Five I’s framework comes from a larger project on supporting early career EER faculty in developing NSF CAREER proposals. Arguably, a NSF CAREER award is significant external recognition of EER that signals central membership in the community. The Five I’s were developed using collaborative inquiry, a tool and process to inform practice, with 19 EER CAREER awardees during a retreat in March 2019.
The Five I’s include: Ideas, Integration, Impact, Identity, and Infrastructure. Ideas is researchers’ innovative and potentially transformative ideas that can make a significant contribution to EER. All NSF proposals are evaluated using the criteria of intellectual merit and broader impacts, and ideas aligned with these goals are essential for funding success. The integration of research and education is a specific additional consideration of CAREER proposals. Both education and research must inform one another in the proposal process. Demonstrating the impact of research is essential to convey why research should be funded. This impact is essential to address as it directly relates to the NSF criteria of broader impacts as well as why an individual is positioned to carry out that impact. This positioning is tied to identity or the particular research expertise from which a faculty member will be a leader in the field. Finally, infrastructure includes the people and physical resources from which a faculty member must draw to be successful. This framework has proven useful in helping early career faculty evaluate their readiness to apply for an NSF CAREER award or highlight the particular areas of their development that could be improved for future success.
The preferred method of presentation for this work is a round table discussion.
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