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Research in Engineering Education

Tips for Publishing in Engineering Education

Getting started in Engineering Education Research

Please cite as follows: Chan, CKY (2015). "Getting started in Engineering Education Research", Engineering Education Enhancement and Research Asia (E3R Asia).

Differences in Engineering Research VS Engineering Education Research

The difference between engineering education research and engineering research is that engineering education research:

  1. Does not have to work as long as you can justify the data and evidence - why did it not work, with what control factors etc. The results can often be used as a contribution to the existing work and data. The results of engineering education research are often used as part of a framework or model for the enhancement of teaching and learning.
  2. Can often be based on theory, literature, or someone else's work
  3. Can be qualitative and/or quantitative
  4. Does not always require a lot of money to research the subjects
  5. Often involves human, thus ethics approval is required
    • Ethical approval: According to the University's policy for ethical practice in research, staff members or research students in Faculties other than Medicine and Dentistry should apply to the Human Research Ethics Committee for Non-Clinical Faculties (HRECNCF) for ethical clearance for research involving human participants. Guidelines and procedures, as well as the application form are available for download here.

How to get started?

If you are an engineering teacher who is interested in establishing research in engineering education, often, a good way to start is to reflect on your own teaching experience and your students' learning experience. Reflecting on your teaching may help you come up with research topics close to your teaching practice and experiences. For example, if you are teaching a large class, you may want to examine the effectiveness of the pedagogy which you applied in your class to engage students. By reflecting on your teaching, you will not just come up with good research topics for engineering education, you will also be able to enhance your course, your curriculum using innovative and appropriate pedagogies and become an excellent engineering teacher. Your teaching will be back up with evidence from different sources. Thus, teaching and learning and the scholarship of teaching and learning in engineering education should come hand in hand. This is known as a research-teaching nexus.

If you are unsure how to start your research in engineering education or would like to discuss with someone, email Prof. Cecilia Chan for a consultation to get some advice at cecilia.chan@cetl.hku.hk.

Some points to consider when conducting Engineering Education Research

  1. Focus and Relevance
    • Are the research questions or propositions clearly stated and addressed?
    • Are the research questions relevant and important to engineering education research or practice?
    • Are the research questions feasible given your teaching and learning context and environment?
  2. Context and Contribution
    • Is the research situated within relevant bodies of knowledge?
    • Does the research contribute to new knowledge?
    • What previous works have been included as literature reviews?
  3. Research Methodology
    • Are the research designs, methods, theories, and/or practices appropriate to answer the research questions?
  4. Results and Generalizability
    • Are there original ideas or results supported by clear reasoning and compelling evidence?
    • Are there original ideas or results of general significance?
  5. Conclusions
    • What is next?
    • What impacts can the results bring to engineering education?