Science Seminar Speaker: Susan Bobbitt Nolen, University of Washington


Wednesday, February 20, 2019 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm


115 Erickson Hall

Title: "Revolution in Engineering Education: Creating a more inclusive and  meaningful environment for students and faculty"

Abstract: With an NSF Revolutionizing Engineering and Computer Science Departments (RED) grant, the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University seeks to create (1) a culture where everyone in the CBEE community feels valued and that they belong, and (2) to create a learning environment that prompts students and faculty to meaningfully connect curricular and co-curricular activities and experiences to each other and to professional practice. In this fourth year of the grant we are emphasizing embedding our learnings in the processes and routine practices of the School.

In this talk, I will provide an overview of the RED work and then a deeper dive into some of the curricular/instructional change efforts underway. One of these efforts, a collaboration with Dr. Milo Koretsky and Dr. Ed Michor of OSU, is to re-design and re-situate existing studio activities for large-section engineering science courses to provide opportunities for more meaningful learning that connects to professional contexts. We are currently analyzing videotaped interactions as student teams engage in “Studio 2.0” activities to see how students take up these opportunities. Does student engagement resemble professional engineering activity (collaboration, systems analysis, consideration of multiple approaches)? Or do they continue to engage in more typical engineering school activity (search for single “correct” approach, dominance by one or two team members, narrow focus on current course topic)? Implications for task design, instruction and strategies for promoting instructional change in engineering faculty will be discussed. More information on the RED project may be found at

Bio: Susan Bobbitt Nolen is Professor and Chair of Learning Sciences and Human Development in the College of Education at the University of Washington. Her main research interests are in designing environments to support engagement and in how motivation to learn develops over time in social contexts. Most recently she has worked within a sociocultural framework to understand why people take up or reject social practices and how motives arise in social interaction. Current projects include studying engagement in rigorous, project-based high school courses and how it might be supported and in creating inclusive, engaging environments in university engineering programs. A secondary interest is in assessment in schools, and the effects of various policies and practices on teacher and student motivation.