Center for Research on Teaching and Learning in Engineering

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

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

Profile submitted by Tershia Pinder-Grover, Interim Director

Vision and Goals

CRLT-Engin will be recognized as an international leader where world-class research on learning and teaching in engineering is integrated into the fabric of the College of Engineering and used to foster student success in the classroom and beyond.

The mission of CRLT-Engin is to serve the U-M College of Engineering and promote excellence in learning and teaching by:

  • conducting and cultivating rigorous engineering education research that leverages our college's innovative educational experiences and that has broad impact locally, nationally, and internationally,
  • facilitating the adoption of research-based teaching practices and seeking continual improvement of teaching and student learning through a comprehensive range of professional development programs, and
  • providing leadership and service at the local, national, and international levels.

Center/Program Structure

Historically, the center director and the assistant director had joint appointments in the College of Engineering and our main campus Center for Research on Learning and Teaching. The assistant director dedicated about half of the time to our CRLT-Engin office. We also have another full time consultant and two full time program assistants dedicated to CRLT-Engin. We are in the midst of transitioning to a new director and so this structure may change.

The director reports directly to 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 would 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 may not fully realize that there are two offices with slightly different foci.

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 programs for new faculty and new graduate student instructors. We also offer regular seminars on effective teaching, and a variety of programs to promote engineering education research amongst the college. And we provide individual consultations with faculty, teaching assistants, and administrators. You may read more about our center via our annual report.

Successes and Impacts

We recently ran a faculty learning community which was well received. You may read more about it in our recent 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]. 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 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.

Elements Contributing to Success

All three of our professional staff have PhDs in engineering and have engineering teaching experience. Also, 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 2014-2015

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