Developing teaching practice


Increasing numbers of studies in STEM fields indicate that there are higher gains in student outcomes in classroom environments implementing evidence-based teaching approaches focused on learners and their learning when compared to traditional lecture-based classrooms. However, despite the compelling results, studies show that lecture is still the most common instructor behaviour in undergraduate education. Professional learning programs have been shown to be crucial in closing this gap and promoting sustained adoption of student-centred teaching approaches in undergraduate education. In order to understand how faculty members in engineering experience the development of their pedagogical understandings and practice, we invited seven engineering professors of different ranks and disciplines to participate in a professional learning program, Scholarship of Pedagogy and Application of Research Knowledge in Engineering (SPARK-ENG), designed specifically for engineering education. The participants’ interactions during the community of practice and individual and group interviews after completing their modules were recorded, transcribed, and analysed through a thematic analysis process. The study findings indicated that the participants demonstrated a complexity of pedagogical understanding and preferences toward practical aspects of engineering education based on external constraints and perceptions about engineering knowledge and engineering teaching. They further valued community-based interactions to develop pedagogical reflection and possibilities of implementation in their own classroom situations. The study points to the need for further research and discussion surrounding professors’ epistemologies of disciplinary knowledge and unique cultures of certain professions to support the development of effective student-centred pedagogies in university professional development programs.

Practitioner Notes

  1. Professional learning programs for university instructors need to be contextualised within their specific disciplines.
  2. University instructors are eager to enhance their undergraduate teaching and open to learning new pedagogic approaches.
  3. Learning about effective teaching flourishes when instructors form an interactive, collaborative community.
  4. Instructors' beliefs about the nature of engineering impacts their perspectives of teaching undergraduate engineering courses.
  5. Instructors develop conceptual understanding of pedagogy through practical strategies, especially given the opportunity to try new approaches in their classes.