Interdisciplinary Faculty Learning Communities in Engineering Programs: The UCSC Experience

Interdisciplinary Faculty Learning Communities in Engineering Programs: The UCSC Experience

S. Loyer, M. Muñoz, H. Silva, M. Gómez, M. Loyola, F. González (2016).  Interdisciplinary Faculty Learning Communities in Engineering Programs: The UCSC Experience. 11.

We’re all in a way part of a “teaching community”. But what makes a community of teachers a teaching community? And how can that teaching community generate exceptional results? This paper is an effort to share a systematic approach and procedures on how to achieve the above. It’s the result of the reflection over several experiences, but particularly one with a multidisciplinary team. The proposal presented in this paper is applicable to any type of teaching community. Although it still hasn’t been applied in many cases, the fact that it was effective in a multidisciplinary environment may be considered as the litmus test.

The main experienced that inspired this work actually started with the task of improving the Introduction to Civil Engineering course at UCSC. Changes were needed because the students were not achieving some personal, interpersonal and leadership learning outcomes, particularly related to attitudes, team work, leadership and communication skills. A multidisciplinary team was set up in order to address accordingly these issues: civil engineers, a language teacher/actor, a therapist in Psychogenealogy and an Industrial Engineer/oganizational coach with expertise in positive psychology. This group was set up and headed by a Civil Engineering Professor with plenty of experience in Engineering Education, CDIO framework, and teaching communities. The result of this work went beyond the task at hand, and two main results can be acknowledged. First, instead of coming up up with a few specific changes (as was mandated by the program authorities), the whole course was redesigned turning out in an integrated learning experience with innovative active learning methodologies. This is now a very complex course, that embraces CDIO standards nº 1, 4, 5, 7, 8 and 11 and taught by professors from 4 different backgrounds, but it works. And most important, evidence proves that students improved their learning. Secondly, is what we have called the spin off effect. A teaching community was born during the process, and is now working on how to continue incorporating these learning outcomes in the following courses.

The approach and methodology used will be explained in detail in the full paper, but a few aspects are described bellow. First, the focus wasn’t put on the task, but rather on a longer-term goal, even though the people worked very hard on the task. The objectives and working plan were designed in advance. The working methodology was clear and known by everyone, but it was also flexible and relied heavily on reflections. There were structured weekly work sessions and periodic retreats. Therefore, this group of very interesting people didn’t just randomly meet and work; they were guided by a proper leader and a proper working plan.

Only successful teaching communities go beyond the task assigned. They have a purpose, motivation and a method. But that is still not enough. Like in war, soldiers learn to battle in the field. In the same way, teaching communities need challenges in order to put in practice what they believe in and see how it works.

Proceedings of the 12th International CDIO Conference, Turku, Finland, June 12-16 2016

Authors (New): 
Solange Loyer
Marcia Muñoz
Hernán Silva
Marco Gómez
Manuel Loyola
Felipe González
Universidad Católica de la Santísima Concepción, Chile
Cocrea Consultants, Chile
Faculty learning community
personal and interpersonal skills
leadership skills
Introduction to engineering courses
CDIO Standard 1
CDIO standard 4
CDIO Standard 5
CDIO Standard 7
CDIO Standard 8
CDIO Standard 9
CDIO Standard 10
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