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Engineering Education Research Center

The Center strives to engage faculty in the integration of research-based practices to enhance their teaching, as well as to engage faculty in utilizing research to better understand learning of engineering.

University of Pittsburgh
Established: 2011

Profile submitted by Mary Besterfield-Sacre

Vision and Goals

The vision of the EERC is to expand engineering education research and produce new approaches to learning that engage students.

The Engineering Education Research Center's (EERC) mission is twofold: 1) enhance the teaching and learning of engineering within the Swanson School of Engineering; and 2) expand engineering education research efforts at the University.

  1. The overarching goals of the EERC are to:
  2. Nucleate the Swanson School of Engineering's (SSoE) strong research programs to educational innovations at the graduate, undergraduate, and K12 levels.
  3. Conduct high quality engineering education research.
  4. Foster opportunities for faculty development in teaching excellence.
  5. Establish and populate distance-enabled Graduate Professional Engineering certificate and degree programs.

Center/Program Structure

The EERC consists of a Director, Mary Besterfield-Sacre. I am a faculty that has both release time and a summer month devoted to the center. The center also has two full time staff: Director for Assessment and Director for Distance Learning. In addition, it has three faculty associated with the center each that are funded one summer month. These three faculty help to operationalize certain school wide initiatives. One person works to help with K12 outreach, one person works to help foster innovation and entrepreneurship activities in the engineering school and the other person works towards improving faculty and new faculty development. These three faculty are non-tenure stream faculty, who are supported to work beyond their teaching obligations on various STEM educational efforts. We also have two technicians that work for us - one for Flipping and one for Distance LEarning Activities.

Description of Programming

We are young but have exploded in the Swanson School. We have the following Swanson School of Engineering initiatives.

  1. New faculty and future faculty (grad students and post docs) development. we host workshops and two seminar courses associated with preparing our next generation faculty. we are also members of the NSF CIRTL network and advertise to our faculty and future faculty opportunities to learn more about teaching in STEM.
  2. Innovation and Entrepreneurship activities. we have revamped our product realization certificate in the SSOE and are getting faculty trained in Lean Launch Pad activities to incorporate in their core undergraduate classes. we also support a boot camp and various activities for engineering students throughout the academic year.
  3. Flipping the classroom. we have a SSOE initiative to flip 8 (actually more) core classes in the school of engineering.
  4. Distance learning for graduate professional training. Our graduate professional programs (MS and certificates) are all moving towards distance enabled learning to increase the mobility of graduate students. Our preference is for professional masters' students to be in the classroom but given working schedules, travel, and weather issues coming to the PItt campus for a night class may not always be feasible; hence, we are adapting our graduate professional courses towards the ability to be in person and on-line for those that need the extra mobility.
  5. Research in engineering education - we have a growing number of non-tenure stream teaching faculty who are actively writing proposals and conducting research in engineering education. the EERC provides mentoring assistance where needed. In addition, the center provides guidance and services to faculty writing proposals that needs assistance with assessment and evaluation, as well as implementing educational research (e.g., HS/IRB, conducting assessment and evaluation).
  6. K12 outreach. We work with the MCSI and the IFL to deliver engineering content to K12 teachers (train the teacher programs) and students through various funding sources (Heinz foundation, currnetly).

Successes and Impacts

We are young, but our activities in the SSOE along with support from our dean have allowed us to be successful along a number of lines. Students and faculty are actively involved and we definitely have positive presence in our school. i believe that our greatest achievement is that recently the Provost, who initially supported our start up, was so impressed with our work, that she is funding the start up and creating a sister center (Science Education and Research Center) in the School of Arts and Sciences.

Elements Contributing to Success


  1. We have a space with small conference room with DL capabilities, and three offices (one for each staff and the other for swing space for faculty and grad students). We are within the SSOE main building and conveniently located.
  2. Active website that is updated by our staff twice per year.
  3. Funds from the Dean to conduct initiatives
  4. Culture in the SSOE that although research is a very high priority; education is also a very high priority.
  5. Assessment of our programming so that we can make improvements.

Supplemental Materials

Annual Report for 2012-13 (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 82kB Aug1 13)

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