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Research and Teaching

Adding Necessary Rigor to Engineering Pedagogical Change

Instructional Innovation Versus Research-Informed Counter-Resistance

Journal of College Science Teaching—July/August 2021 (Volume 50, Issue 6)

By Yonghee Lee, Carl Lund, and Randy Yerrick

In this study, we explore the teaching of an acclaimed engineering education professor and his struggles to transform his classroom in light of the National Academy of Engineering standards. We argue that pedagogical changes, particularly in contexts where students have been highly successful, may be preemptively abandoned in response to students’ floundering. We offer three instances in which direct counter-resistance to students’ responses to pedagogical innovation allowed this expert instructor to achieve his long-term goal of students’ higher-level thinking. Implications for future teaching and research are discussed.


There are a variety of calls and justifications cited for implementing pedagogical changes in undergraduate engineering classrooms (Felder, 2006; NAE, 2014; NRC, 1996, 2013). We contend that (a) pedagogical changes are difficult to implement successfully for many reasons, and (b) we must recognize the contextual constraints and rewards that drive undergraduate engineering instruction professionals. Teaching undergraduate engineering typically entails large classes facilitated by engineers who have received little to no pedagogical instruction and who are rarely rewarded for their instructional excellence (Prince & Felder, 2006; Riegle-Crumb et al., 2012; Seymour & Hewitt, 1997). This observation is not an indictment of the discipline, nor is it an excuse to promote traditional (lecture-style) instruction. Instead, it is a nonjudgmental description of the instructional context in which we based our study of intentional pedagogical shifts (Dancy & Henderson, 2010). Engineering educators seldom receive strong support for in-depth reflection of their teaching or regular opportunities to collaborate with education researchers (Riley, 1999). Unsurprisingly, 87% of engineer educators use lectures as their dominant form of content delivery. This figure represents a predictable outcome, given the configuration of learning spaces (e.g., lecture halls), student-teacher ratios, and history of instruction. In such traditional contexts, social norms are established in negotiations between instructors and students (Cobb, 1997; Lemke, 1990; McClain & Cobb, 1997). That is, students resign themselves to the role of passively receiving knowledge during lectures, taking notes, and applying their gained knowledge to prescribed problem sets after class. Students expect professors to “cover” the content necessary, and instructors staying current in their field to maintain their role as content experts, align their lectures with the midterm and final exam content, and field clarifying questions from students like, “Will this be on the exam?” These sociocultural norms prevail and replicate without much thoughtful critique for their effectiveness (Fang, 1996; Felder, 1991; Felder et al., 2011; Rodriguez, 2004). In responding to their students’ pressures to keep instruction predictably conservative and transactional, engineers who collaborate with me regularly confess, “I never had any pedagogical training. I just teach the way I was taught. It worked for me.”

STEM classroom discourse norms have been well studied for decades and across the entire K–16 instructional spectrum (Driver et al., 1994; Lemke, 1990). The longer conservative discourse norms are practiced, the more comfortable students and teachers become in their recognized roles and practices. Over the years, expected success is defined by traditional instructional practices and shapes even the nature of knowledge itself, as fewer students succeed in STEM with each passing grade level in K–16 instruction. Engineering students (a) know the rules of success, (b) are expert note-takers and problem completers, (c) desire predictability in the application of honed study skills, and (d) expect consistency in the 15 weeks of instruction they receive in a given semester.

We agree with current engineering education reform that change is needed to reverse the above patterns of learning among engineering students (Bettinger & Long, 2009; Borrego et al., 2010; Freeman et al., 2014; Jawitz & Case, 2002; Johnson, 2006; Martorell & McFarlin, 2011; Oakes et al., 1997; Riley et al., 2009; Tobias & Lin, 1991). We posit that change is possible if engineers receive support and engage in careful consideration of curricular and pedagogical changes and reflective practices, following an appropriate theoretical framework to guide the intended innovation.

Without such support in place, changes in undergraduate engineering instruction will likely manifest only on a small scale, incrementally controlled, as short-term experimentation—little more than dabbling with minor pedagogical tweaks. Some have referred to such studies as tinkering or classroom experimentation, which contrast rigorous, theoretically driven research on teaching and learning (Beddoes & Borrego, 2011; Prince, 2004; Prince & Felder, 2006). Some less impactful practitioner research is often based upon small adjustments, introduction of random tools or strategies that are measured only by test scores or students’ positive satisfaction. These accounts serve as re-voicing success narratives in engineering education, but have little impact and often serve to reinforce existing practices.

We believe that engineers should re-examine conventional pedagogy, although we recognize Borrego and Henderson’s (2014) critique that:

Engineering educators and engineering education researchers have limited experience with education and social science theories…engineering lags far behind physics and chemistry education in its engagement with learning theory. Engineering education scholars have called for more explicit use of theory in educational research, yet there are few detailed discussions in the engineering education literature about what theory means and how it is best applied in engineering education research and practice (p. 222).

Pedagogical shifts should not be sporadic or inconsistent with research. Instead, pedagogical changes should intentionally align with current existing frameworks for understanding teaching and learning through a lens that is broader than just engineering education literature. Borrego has argued that some problems “could be better solved by education researchers… [and] calls for rigor would be an appropriate next step to developing the field of engineering education (Borrego, 2007, p. 6).

We are engineers and educational researchers working side-by-side to explore engineering instruction from a “Teacher as Researcher” perspective (Hammersley, 1993). As authors and researchers in science and engineering education we posit that the study of innovative teaching, which deviates from the traditional norm of lecturing, could offer significant insights into the path toward engineering education reform. To this end, we invited an award-winning engineer to collaborate with us and to explore his pedagogical knowledge and corresponding practices. He is a consummate professional who understands calls for reform, has experience in educational research, and continuously reflects deeply on his pedagogy.

Within the context of Dr. Lund’s classroom, we engaged as participant observers in his classroom—as outsiders given the opportunity to examine intended shifts in pedagogy and how students responded to his research-driven teaching, thoughtful and carefully revised curriculum, and the corresponding instructional approach. Although we have published more complete findings from his classroom (Lee, 2018; Yerrick et al., 2012; 2013), in this article we intend to draw attention to the challenges of change that engineers face when they try to change the discourse norms in undergraduate engineering classrooms. Students’ expectations, confusion, frustration, and resistance arise when instructors initiate pedagogical change. We do not suggest that the traditional expectations of students are reasonable. However, we recognize the potential for student resistance, given the perceived high risk associated with changing the rules for success.

Like most changes in social behavior, pedagogical change is difficult. We focus on encouraging engineers who desire to make pedagogical shifts and aim to ensure that they persist through the initial student resistance they encounter to sustain a thoughtful long-term trajectory for student learning in their engineering classrooms. Therefore, we chose the counter-resistance framework of cultural awareness for instituting change (Rodriguez, 1998). Alberto J. Rodriguez is a leading science education equity researcher who promotes revised curriculum, pedagogy, and assessments to reflect the cultural diversity of students in K–12 contexts. He has documented resistance to ethnic, linguistic, and cultural inclusion from predominantly young, White, female teachers in training who believed they already knew what good teaching was.

In response, Rodriguez (1998) developed counter-resistance strategies to address the perspectives of his traditional preservice science teachers who opposed his equity frameworks and recommended classroom interactions. Counter-resistance is essentially the anticipation of resistance and a plan to move through or beyond presented obstacles. Similarly, when engineering instructors encounter student resistance, they can intentionally invoke counter-resistance strategies to address the causes of entrenched student thinking. Using counter-resistance strategies can make sustained change possible. With his permission, we include some of Dr. Lund’s encounters with resistance as both evidence and encouragement for engineering educators, knowing that his long-term success following these encounters has already been well documented. The overarching research question we pursue in this paper asks, “What does resistance in engineering classrooms reveal about making long-term changes in engineering instruction?”


Ethnographic case studies can facilitate the exploration of complex dynamics in classroom contexts and incorporate a variety of data sources (Creswell & Poth, 2016; Kincheloe & McLaren, 2002; Yin, 2017), for which we received Institutional Review Board approval from both faculty and students. Because Dr. Lund was both teacher and researcher (Hammersley, 1993; Henderson & Dancy, 2008), we could gather and provide evidence without violating the confidentiality agreements with the host institution. The research design promoted a multilayered analysis of classroom instruction and contexts with diverse perspectives by analyzing different data sources. During data collection, which took place via classroom observations and interviews, we were not only participant-observers but also recorders of classroom interactions (video and field notes) as recommended by ethnographic methodologists (Erlandson et al., 1993; Seidman, 2006; Spradley, 1980). Moreover, we were learners and outsiders to the field of engineering, trying to better understand the participants, their interactions, and the construction of meaning within a particular context.

The excerpts presented in this paper are extracted from a two-year, five-semester-long ethnographic case study in Dr. Lund’s classroom. The research site was Dr. Lund’s Kinetics and Reaction engineering course, which took place at 9:00 am three times each week; 68 undergraduate juniors and seniors regularly attended the class. The larger data set from which we draw our evidence represents a rich array of quantitative and qualitative data sources. Specifically, we used curriculum materials, pre- and postintervention instructor interviews, classroom observation recordings, online support tools, student interviews, student work samples, and other artifacts to create a comprehensive classroom change account (Lee, 2018, Yerrick et al., 2012; 2013).


In this section, we describe three vignettes that highlight real obstacles to Dr. Lund’s intended pedagogical shifts. We describe the maneuvering, both planned and improvised, that Dr. Lund enacted to counteract cultural inertia in this unique learning context. In the first vignette, Dr. Lund confronts students’ traditional learning norms, likely because they did not recognize the value of altering their engagement. We see how Dr. Lund elicits a positive response from his students to this new learning context as he calls for their active participation in public problem-solving and argumentation during classroom instruction. He developed instructional tools and matched them with expert teaching strategies, and consistently found himself employing pedagogical counter-resistance to dysfunctional classroom norms. Dr. Lund believed these old norms have contributed to reduce students’ abilities to apply higher-level thinking, and changing these norms have repeatedly enhanced his students’ sophisticated thinking and development of argumentation semester after semester (Lee, 2018; Yerrick et al., 2012, 2013).

“Jump around!”

Students do not always readily accept change, particularly in environments of high competition where they feel vulnerable. Upon inviting students to offer solutions or critiques of others, students demonstrated an extreme resistance to participate. Dr. Lund recognized the long-term benefits and outcomes of creating the kind of open learning community in which a professor was not always the central authority of all knowledge. When applying this approach, he persevered and did not return to traditional patterns of lecture, note-taking, and solving problems for students. Students were reticent early in the semester, but Dr. Lund built rapport, lowered risk and anxiety, and offered counter-resistance to his pedagogy with humor.

Dr. Lund began class by asking students to join him in a kinesthetic representation of chemical reactivities and activation energies. None responded. After a long uncomfortable pause, Dr. Lund pressed a button on his laptop and started jumping around in front of his students:

Dr. Lund: (Starts jumping and waving both arms up and down.) Get up! Get up! Jump around! Come on! Come on! Jump around! I can’t do this for the whole song. It will likely kill me. Come on! Come on! Jump around!

Students: (Laughing and watching Dr. Lund jumping around.)

Mark: (Standing up and jumping around.) Yeah!

Josh: (Talking to Mark.) Oooooh!

Dr. Lund: (Stops jumping and holds his breath.) Now, where are we?

Students: (Laughing loudly.) Ha, ha, ha!

Dr. Lund: I’m not kidding. Google it. You can find “Jump Around” on YouTube (House of Pain, 1992).

Students: (Start talking with other students and get louder.)

Dr. Lund: All right. Let’s solve the problem. This design equation is…

Initially, only one student, Mark, stood up and briefly jumped around; the rest quietly and uncomfortably scanned the room and did not join in the jumping. It was the sedentary and disinterested behavior that the undergraduate engineering students had practiced for countless hours during prior STEM instruction. We later learned, from student interviews, of the real fear held by students for admitting their feelings of unpreparedness, intimidation, and competition among their peers. A real fear of being wrong publicly kept them from openly guessing and taking risks. Several recounted very embarrassing incidents in which they received scorn from teachers and fellow students. However, watching Dr. Lund jump around, students began laughing with their peers, and this gave the engineering students an invitation to question past norms of learning in engineering prior courses.

We learned from engineering students about their patterns of interactions and cultural traditions they came to expect in engineering coursework. We inquired about students’ general norms, underlying beliefs, and how they practice these behaviors almost uniformly in this sociocultural context. Their reports of coping strategies included photocopying professors’ PowerPoint slides, cramming for tests and quizzes, searching for solutions on the Internet, convening study support groups, and attempting to out-compete their peers at each turn. These norms had shaped their collective expectations of sitting quietly, taking as many notes as possible, not asking questions out of fear of revealing ignorance or uncertainty, and meeting with study groups to solve assigned problem sets that stretched beyond their understanding.

We are not so naïve to believe that dancing or music improves engineering learning. This shift moved the pedagogy from a well-documented pattern of nonparticipation toward a renegotiated model of thought and behavior. It also served in future classes as a kinesthetic example of activation energy and for demonstrating overall systems energy for chemical reactors. More importantly, this maneuver served as a transformative moment for changing the context to one that was more culturally responsive (college students dance to this song outside of class), revealing a full commitment to lessening authoritative judgment and lessening risk for individuals during problem-solving exercises.

“Is there any brave soul?”

To facilitate the collaborative problem-solving environment, while also balancing the need for content delivery and the introduction of core engineering constructs his students need, Dr. Lund created a wealth of curricular resources and academic tasks. Specifically, he coordinated and synchronized his instruction, which flows from homework and out-of-class activities into class time. The purpose of creating these resources is typically to provide a transformative experience within the class instruction where students can practice and apply other more advanced and sophisticated interactions and content. By providing carefully devised tools and thoughtfully orchestrated academic tasks for students to complete before class, the professor can transform the work in class from “receiving information” to engagement in argumentation and the practice of other professional competencies with scaffolding from the professor. Subsequently, a different kind of “work” is accomplished.

In the next vignette, we observe the renegotiation of norms and the shift in expertise. That is, we move from a singular source (e.g., instructor, textbook, answer key) of information to one of argumentation and evidence. In this class, the instructor prepared students’ outside class activities via an authored chemical engineering reactor simulator. Students come to class ready to engage in the critique of multiple solutions as they play the role of plant manager. During the initiated dialogue in which the instructor roams the room for 10 minutes, “listening-in” and providing an apprenticeship type of instruction, students become visibly nervous and reticent. Their behavior exemplifies the challenges of transforming classroom norms.

Dr. Lund: Well, these three slide presentations are an example of how you might attempt to explain something to someone. You might learn it better if you develop slides and explain how to do it…The typical thing students do when they get a problem is they go to a book and find a problem just like it and say “Yeah, I understand.”…But when you have to do it without the book, they’re like “Gee, I really don’t understand that quite as well as I thought I could.” When you have to explain it to somebody else, it reveals you didn’t understand it quite as much as you thought you did. I will roam around the room like I usually do. If you have any questions about this, flag me down. That’s a whole idea. Okay?

Students: [Some students start whispering.]

Dr. Lund: [10 seconds of silence.] Okay, is there any brave soul who did presentations on the prototype, or who are willing to come up and share, testing the flow?

Students: [10 seconds of silence.]

Dr. Lund: I won’t force anybody to this. Anybody?

Students: [15 seconds of silence.]

Dr. Lund: How about the testing for transport limitation? (Dr. Lund is looking around students with smiles.)

Students: [Eight seconds of silence.]

Dr. Lund: I know there’s someone working on these presentations.

Students: [Eight seconds of silence.]

Dr. Lund: Then, let’s talk about how you would do this presentation.


Despite his repeated solicitations, students did not respond to their professor’s question. No student volunteered to share their group’s answers with the whole class in public. While scanning the room, students looked down or averted their eyes while others scribbled something in their notebooks. Through the postintervention student interviews, we discovered students had actually completed and critiqued the work of their peers, but had concurrently exposed some of their predispositions for approaching engineering problems. Many of their solutions revealed that they had simply tried to apply the most recent or most straightforward equation they had learned to thoughtlessly insert values and report whatever numbers are produced. Students’ problem-solving strategies were weak and shaped by years of abstract and disconnected math problem solutions. Students revealed little awareness of how to test their solutions and strategies; they also struggled to see the bigger picture against which they could judge their overall approach to the problem.

Focusing on reaching the quickest and most mathematical solution possible hindered their ability to formulate reasonable solutions. Dr. Lund created an open sharing environment so that these quick and novice attempts at solutions would be both visible and correctable. This approach was an intentional pedagogical move since instructors cannot fix what they cannot identify as a problem. Rather than considering a wide variety of solutions, students sought concise, formulaic answers as fast as possible. Because students have become accustomed to this test preparation approach to engineering learning, they had difficulty in learning engineering by interacting with their classmates, as opposed to learning by receiving direct answers from their professors.

Dr. Lund’s counter-resistance to over-simplistic and formulaic problem-solving was to provide multiple avenues through which students could learn the content. Students spent their out-of-class time watching videos that demonstrated engineering concepts, reviewing online simulations to test reactor design functionality and efficiency, interacting with virtual lab experiences, and applying concepts through homework assignments. By giving students opportunities to practice in redesigned problems outside of class in online collaborations, students could listen, learn, study, and practice content delivered to them in online venues and apply what they learned collaboratively before attending the whole class. This design allowed Dr. Lund to listen to how his students had engaged in the assigned problem-based learning assignments; he could also interact with them in ways that allowed him to treat them more like professional engineers.

By preparing them for a different kind of interaction in class, he could listen to how his students were making sense of the content and act more like a professional mentor and academic instructor. In-class work primarily consisted of activities that supplemented students’ out-of-class experiences, with less than 25% of class time devoted to the presentation of new information. Dr. Lund’s students did come along and adopt many of the norms he was promoting. Still, he also hoped the engineering simulators he had created for this kind of instruction would provide additional support for fellow professors who wanted to implement active-learning strategies in traditional lecture-style engineering classes. Some of the learning outcomes resulting from his revised pedagogy are made explicit in the next section.

Collaborative problem-solving activities

After many weeks of renegotiating classroom discourse, Dr. Lund’s students routinely appropriates new ways of speaking, thinking, and acting, as demonstrated in detail elsewhere (Yerrick et al., 2012; Yerrick et al., 2013). Students’ new engagement evolved from passively receiving knowing to participation in risk-taking, critical collaboration, argumentative refinement, and co-construction of content. Through regular scaffolding like the following excerpts, student participation and engagement improved through Dr. Lund’s orchestration of active learning instruction.

Dr. Lund: This is a start-up problem. I would like you to get this setup to the point where you have specified the initial conditions for the differential equations to solve this problem. If you get stuck, raise your hands and get me to explain it to you. You can work with each other. You don’t have to sit and try to figure it out by yourself.

Students: [One second of silence. Begins conversations with other students.]

Dr. Lund: Let’s make it exciting. Let’s put a few people up on the board, writing each of the mole balance and energy balance. Come up and grab a buddy, a friend, or an enemy.

Students: [One second of silence. Laughing aloud.]

Dr. Lund: [Pick] someone you wanna be embarrassed with. It’s nothing wrong with a screwed up answer. I’ll give you a book that I got lots of mistakes in. I need a couple of people who come up here and write a mole balance on methanol. And here a couple of people to write a mole balance on propylene oxide, a couple of people on water, and a couple of people on propylene glycol, a couple of people on energy balance. Come on! No guts, no glory! Come up and write up your mistakes.

Reed: [One second of silence. Quickly standing up and coming up to a right of the board.]

Dr. Lund: Yeah, this will be like a volunteer.

Students: [One second of silence. Starts another conversation with students sitting next to them. Then, Chris, Nicole, and Jake stood up and each student approached the left, the center, and the right of a board and started writing solutions.]

Dr. Lund: It’s on the methanol. [talking to Jake with a small voice, pointing a part of the solution that a student is writing.]

Jake: Aha! [Erasing the part of his solution and writing it again.]

Dr. Lund: [Turns around and addresses all students.]. Awfully quiet. I don’t like quiet. You should solve this problem by yourself and help them. Don’t sit in here and just watch all these guys doing. Awfully quiet. I don’t like quiet. How many of you have all the balance equations written, mole and energy? Raise your hands. So, I can see. I’ll give you a couple of more minutes. Most critically, figure out what the initial condition should be. That’s the real trick of this problem, any of these problems.

There are many facets of this kind of scaffolding that act to countermand and redefine students’ resistance to participating. First, students complied with Dr. Lund’s solicitation willingly and, sometimes, enthusiastically. Second, as a part of our discourse analysis, we measured the length of time that students could meaningfully engage in critique. The length of the student-instructor exchanges increased from 1.5 minutes to 6.3 minutes (Lee, 2018). Meaningful exchanges tripled in their duration, and the quality of student-to-student responses increased, demonstrating that they were trying on the role of pushing the veracity of knowledge claims in the same critical ways their professor modeled. Third, students exhibited increased ownership prompted directly by the instructor’s scaffolding. When stating, “You learn when you sit down and try to use the information by yourself,” Dr. Lund articulated the importance of student agency in the process of learning—narrowing the gaps between his students and himself. In the above excerpt alone, there are more than 18 direct references to this increased ownership.

As reported elsewhere (Yerrick et al., 2012; Yerrick et al., 2013; Lee, 2018), students dramatically increased their participation through solicited and unsolicited responses, as well as increased their ability to carry on the self-sustained critique of public solutions to engineering problems. Not only did we find that students participated more frequently, but we also found that the nature and depth of their questions in class improved dramatically (Lee, 2018). The result was clear. Although students were well-acclimated to a traditional lecture-oriented traditional context, the instructor could change his students’ habits of mind through his thoughtful reflection on teaching, his research-driven pedagogy, and his intentional counter-resistance.

Our purpose, however, is not merely to restate shifts in classroom discourse. Instead, we aim to bring attention to the challenges professors may face in challenging traditional norms and draw attention to the requisite pedagogical knowledge Dr. Lund uses to implement such shifts effectively. Dr. Lund neither pandered nor succumbed to student pressure to lecture; he did not follow the easier path of allowing students to negotiate a minimal standard, as several scholars have noted in academic learning contexts (Cobb, 1997; McClain & Cobb, 1997; Lemke, 1990). Working against the collective knowledge of engineering instruction, the instructor provided scaffolding and counter-resistance, which unraveled many of the constraints students carried with them regarding their participation. One student, Steve, summed it up best when he said of group problem-solving activities:

I think [collaborative problem-solving activities are] extremely helpful because of his demeanor, he expects you to get it. You kind of live up to it. He doesn’t give pressure, and he is not acting like that, but you are responsible for your work. It kind of makes sure you get it. My friends help me… understand the material. Actually, it’s the quickest I am ever grasping the material in engineering courses. This working with other people doing a problem, with him there, helps us when we are all stumped. It is a nice little formula and feedback.

Dr. Lund’s pedagogical prowess, as well as his understanding of student knowledge and sincere belief that students’ expressed actions do not represent their inner potential, created opportunities to challenge learner-oriented resistance and the general inertia typical of undergraduate learning contexts. He did so in a way that demonstrates meaningful change and that progress is possible. We argue through this example and our careful study of Dr. Lund’s teaching that he has not only identified and overcome barriers to undergraduates’ participation, but also those of other engineering instructors working toward basic steps to unleash their students’ learning potential.


The previously mentioned examples demonstrate the actions of an expert instructor who actively renegotiated classroom discourse patterns by countering his students’ resistance and traditional role as receivers of knowledge. Although numerous students showed discomfort, confusion, and disorientation during this renegotiation, Dr. Lund supported them and challenged them to construct their own knowledge. Rather than concede his lofty goals or retreat to old patterns when students failed, he found ways to press forward and establish new ways of speaking, thinking, and acting. Dr. Lund could have concluded that his students were unwilling to participate, too untalented to achieve, or unable to grasp his goals for higher-level thinking. However, he did not retreat to deficit views that many other engineering instructors have adopted. Instead, he presumed that they had understood his expectations and wanted to succeed, so he provided ways for them to reach beyond their traditional understanding of classroom participation.

We conjecture that it is only through instructors’ moves of counter-resistance that it becomes possible to reimagine engineering classroom contexts in the ways the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) challenged their members to transform engineering instruction. Dr. Lund’s actions were a deliberate departure from the established norms in undergraduate engineering education. These assumed norms included: (a) that the instructor always has the right answer and represents the only source of knowledge in the room, (b) that there is only one right answer, (c) that not knowing the correct answer is shameful, and (d) that being wrong publicly and debating the merits of conflicting answers should be avoided. Instructors may desire to promote different learning contexts, but hoping for change and blaming others are not useful strategies. Undergraduate engineering students often operate in high-pressure and high-achievement settings in which they compete directly with peers who have successfully navigated academic tasks for more than a decade through traditional means. Only when instructors actively impede and redirect classroom interactions can common shared beliefs and interactions be renegotiated and widely adopted.


Our findings raise several important questions to address in future research. Some have questioned whether most of the current engineering education research is sufficiently rigorous to expose students’ underlying beliefs (Borrego, 2007; Felder et al., 2011; Froyd & Lohmann, 2014; Johri & Olds, 2014). Without intentional challenges to existing learning theories and practices, some scholars have argued that the field will remain stuck in a paradigm that continues to promote an orientation of STEM teaching as the “presentation of the official canon of … approved methods for the benefit of those who deserve it” (Dykstra, 2002). Such a narrow perspective of instruction runs contrary to calls for pedagogical reform promoted by the ASEE as the discipline of engineering education suggests changes should be enacted in engineering classrooms to make knowledge accessible to more than the deserving few.

Further, we contend that engineering education research can inform necessary change, but only when researchers employ rigorous methods and daring challenges to existing traditions. Dr. Lund demonstrated a deep understanding of his discipline as well as a means for transforming classroom norms. He also revealed a rarely discussed undercurrent of resistance to change regarding an instructor’s unwillingness to give in to students’ lower expectations by providing them the correct answers. Instead, he supported his students in pursuing a better long-term goal. Often, such pedagogical moves must be informed by research outside the engineering education discipline (Beddoes & Borrego, 2011), if one is to make necessary inroads, which have not yet occurred under the current paradigm of success narratives and superficial dabbling. The nature of interactions and the cultural contexts students and instructors co-construct in engineering programs warrants more considerable scholarly attention. We hope future investigators reach beyond the success narratives of minor pedagogical dabbling in favor of robust Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). Designs should focus on the nature of significant and productive measures of pedagogical complexity and resistance to change. ■

Yonghee Lee is a postdoctoral scholar at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Carl Lund is the chair of engineering education at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Randy Yerrick ( is the dean of education at California State University at Fresno.


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Engineering Pedagogy Teaching Strategies Postsecondary

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