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This workshop, supported by NSF (via grant DUE-0523255), brought together engineering education researchers and sociologists to frame a research agenda by which to begin to explore the challenge of integrating pedagogical and curricular innovations into the engineering classroom. In order to complement the work done by education researchers, the social processes and barriers to widespread implementation of innovations must be studied. A two-day workshop in April, 2006, brought together ten sociologists and nine engineering educators in order to begin developing an interdisciplinary research agenda to examine the dynamics of social change in engineering colleges. The work of seeking out and bringing together this cross-disciplinary team was carried out by the National Academy of Engineering in collaboration with the American Sociological Association. Workshop attendees participated in sessions related to one of three topic areas: "organizational context and faculty behavior," "faculty rewards," and "diffusing innovations." During the course of the workshop, the attendees were looking to address several underlying questions: (1) How do new knowledge, curriculum, and pedagogical practice gain legitimacy and spread?, (2) What are the impediments and the facilitators of individual and institutional diffusion and change that can be modeled?, (3) What hypotheses need to be tested?, and (4) What do we know from research and practice, and what do we need to know to answer these questions?
The workshop focused on three tracks:
Workshop attendees were divided into three groups of six - three sociologists and three engineers. Each group focused on one of the topic areas. In advance of the meeting, two expert "panelists" (one engineer and one sociologist) from each of the three topic areas wrote a white paper summarizing the research that has been done, and the research that is needed, in their area. The other attendees wrote shorter white papers discussing their view of the research needed in their topic area based largely on personal experience at their institution. These white papers were collected and distributed to all of the participants in advance of the workshop, for the purpose of beginning to determine areas of consensus and disagreement. At least two NSF-funded projects by workshop attendees resulted (EEC-0835816, and EEC-083511).