Supported by an NSF RED grant, the School seeks to create: (1) a culture where everyone in the CBEE community feels a sense of value and belonging, and (2) a learning environment that prompts students and faculty to meaningfully relate curricular and co-curricular activities and experiences to each other and to connect both with professional practice. There has been substantial activity in support of these goals. Approximately two-thirds of the School faculty have completed a 60-hour professional development experience that encourages examination of how unequal distribution of social, political and economic power becomes enacted in day-to-day personal interactions. About half the faculty have been involved in our Studio 2.0 transformation where assignments are crafted to position students in the role of teams of engineers doing realistic work. In the final year of the grant, we are investigating the ways that shifts in structures and practices have been taken up by the community and identifying barriers to sustainability. This paper discusses three structural changes in support of these efforts. The examples were chosen based on differences in community support towards sustainability. Our hope is not just to communicate what has worked well but also the types of barriers that resist shifts in organizational structures.
The first example centers on the use and professional development of near-peer Learning Assistants (LAs) to facilitate interactive engagement in Studio. This initiative is broadly supported within the community and has moved forward in several ways this year including: teaching credit for faculty; greater faculty ownership and administration of LA recruitment and hiring; and the integration of a Lead LA position. The use of undergraduates in support of learning has a rich history in the School, and shifting the nature of their work and providing more specific support appears to align with community conceptions. The second example is the pilot implementation of an alternative leads model in eight select studio courses where two faculty share a course assignment with one orienting towards that year’s delivery and the other taking responsibility for curricular innovation and vertical integration of key skills with other courses. This structure is intended to institutionalize innovation and address issues of practice as a core instructional activity rather than work supported by external funds. While the faculty who have opted into this model are enthusiastic, there is resistance from administrators who have difficulty reconciling the workloads of the alternative leads with the more traditional sequestered model of instruction. There are also faculty who do not chose to participate. Finally, we discuss our efforts to meaningfully allow faculty to have different Position Descriptions. Position Descriptions represent a clear opportunity in our efforts to empower faculty and staff to identify, agree upon, and carry out responsibilities that can be outside of the traditional norms in the academy such as identifying Change Leaders and formally allot 10% of their effort toward shifting the School’s culture to re-situate learning and instruction. However, the meaningful incorporation of new Position Descriptions into faculty annual review has not gained traction.
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