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 and future faculty development in teaching excellence.

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 the following: 1. Director for Assessment, 2. Assistant Director of Professional Development, Director of Special Projects. In addition, we have a faculty who is associated with the center that is funded one summer month. These individuals help to operationalize certain school wide initiatives. One person works to help with professional development of future faculty, one person works to help foster innovation and entrepreneurship activities in the engineering school, and one person helps to assess new programs. These individuals 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 Innovation/Entrepreneurship.

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 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 core classes in the Swanson School of Engineering.
  4. 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). We have several externally funded research grants in engineering education with faculty in the Swanson School of Engineering
  5. Faculty development and evaluation of a new joint institute with Sichuan University.


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. We 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 (Disicipline-Based Science Education and Research Center) in the School of Arts and Sciences.

Elements Contributing to Success

  1. We have a permanent center space with DL capabilities, and offices. We are within the SSOE main building and conveniently located.
  2. Active website.
  3. Funds from the Dean to conduct initiatives with additional externally funded grants.
  4. Culture in the SSOE that although research is a high priority; education is also a high priority.
  5. Assessment of our programming so that we can make improvements.