Center for Research on Teaching and Learning in Engineering

CRLT-Engin promotes engineering education research and leverages it to facilitate the adoption of effective teaching practices among our engineering faculty, graduate student instructors, and undergraduate student instructors.

College of Engineering, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Established: 2003

Profile submitted by Tershia Pinder-Grover, Director

Vision and Goals

"Promoting excellence and innovation in engineering education"

The mission of CRLT-Engin is to promote evidence-based practices in engineering education so that students and instructors from diverse backgrounds and social identities can learn and thrive. CRLT-Engin collaborates with academic units and educators at all levels of their careers as they strive for excellence in teaching, innovate in teaching-learning environments, and investigate the impact of educational initiatives on student learning.

Center/Program Structure

The center director and one of the instructional consultants have joint appointments in the College of Engineering and our main campus Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. The instructional consultant dedicates about 75% of the time to the CRLT-Engin office. We also have another half time instructional consultant and two full time program assistants dedicated to CRLT-Engin. The center also hires graduate students as engineering teaching consultants to support the student instructor population in the college of engineering. Intermittently, CRLT-Engin hires temporary staff to support specific programs/events.

The director reports directly to Executive Director of the Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) and the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education in the College of Engineering. The Associate Dean reports to the Dean of the College of Engineering.

Are there advantages of being structured this way?
Having joint appointments with the main teaching center has some advantages (e.g., being able to leverage the resources/personnel, connecting faculty development work across campus, etc.) Additionally, having support staff fully dedicated to the center (as opposed to splitting both offices) means that they do not have to deal with how to prioritize the needs of bosses from two different offices.

Are there particular challenges that result from this structure?
First, it can be challenging to keep both offices informed of programs and new developments. Additionally, some faculty and student instructors may not fully realize that there are two distinct offices.

Center Funding

The center is supported by the College of Engineering.

How has this funding structure influenced the undergraduate STEM education programming the center offers?
Our center focuses entirely on supporting teaching and learning in the College of Engineering.

What are the specific advantages of having a center funded in this way?
We do not have to seek out external funds in order to do our work. When we work with departments, we don't have to negotiate fee-for-service requests because we are already compensated to work with them.

What are the challenges?
We do have to be careful about how to balance the requests from departments with the limited staffing we have available.

Has this funding structure has changed over time?
We've been supported by the College of Engineering since the center's inception. The previous director sought external funding for her educational research projects. Because of this, the center was able to engage in more educational research projects.

Description of Programming

We offer orientation programs for new faculty, graduate student instructors, and undergraduate student instructors. We also offer regular college-wide workshops on effective teaching, customized departmental workshops, and faculty learning communities. We also hold an annual poster fair to promote engineering education research. Finally,we provide individual consultations with faculty, teaching assistants, and administrators. You may read more about our center via our annual highlights publication.

Successes and Impacts

One example of successful program is a learning community for faculty teaching large courses. You may read more about it in this American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) paper.

Evaluation and Assessment

How does your center demonstrate its value, both in terms of assessing its own programming and responding to external evaluation? 
Our center evaluates each program using a paper evaluation at the end of each event. For special programs, such as the faculty learning community, we received NSF funding to evaluate the program. See link to the American Society for Engineering Education paper listed below as a resource. [1]. Or, we may conduct focus groups or online surveys with our program participants to gain further insights into a program's effectiveness. Our center also keeps tracks of attendance at our events and we use infographics in our highlights brochures and annual reports to describe our work to external audience. See link below [2]. In addition, CRLT-Engin sends out a survey to all faculty and student instructors who receive a midterm student feedback session to collect their thoughts on the quality of our consultations. Finally, for our 10th anniversary, we created posters that comprised of photos and quotations from faculty and graduate students that were collected during the processes listed above that describe the value of our programs/services.

Elements Contributing to Success

Our staff have PhDs in Engineering and science education as well as STEM teaching experience. Also, our program assistants are invested in the nature and content of our programs and are vital partners in the success of our programming. Finally, we are funded by the college of engineering and closely linked with our main campus center.

Supplemental Materials

[1] The Teaching Circle for Large Engineering Courses: Clearing the Activation Barrier

[2] CRLT-Engin Annual Highlights & Reports

Essay: Creating, Communicating, and Customizing the Mission of CRLT-Engin - Tershia Pinder-Grover, Center for Research on Learning and Teaching in Engineering (CRLT-Engin), University of Michigan