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Origin of Stories
Who are these people? Are they actual people?
The people in these stories are fictional. These characters are based, though, on actual engineering educators. Through our research, we learned about the complex situations that many engineering educators (e.g., tenured faculty, new assistant professors, department chairs, or teaching assistants) face while teaching undergraduate and graduate engineering students. If any characters match an actual personís name, it was purely unintentional.

These stories and this web site are the result of a multi-year research project at the University of Washington, directed by Dr. Jennifer Turns. The NSF-sponsored grant (#EEC-021174), "Teaching Challenges of Engineering Faculty," focused on two main goals: (1) learn about the teaching challenges of engineering educators and (2) develop a web site to help engineering educators, based on the findings from the teaching challenges research.
To obtain data on the teaching-related challenges, concerns, and complexities of engineering educators, we debriefed a UW College of Engineering instructional consultant after she met with individual faculty or teaching-related groups.

The core of this site is stories written to emulate the engineering educator experience.
Over the course of 66 debriefing interviews with an instructional developer, whose client base is educators solely from engineering, we uncovered a combination of qualities about the engineering educator world that we think are important when trying to help educators improve their teaching.
For example, we realized that faculty, instructors, or teaching assistants who consult with the instructional developer come to the consultation with complex situations that cannot be boiled down to a simple question and simple answer.
Our data also suggested that educators in the engineering disciplines do not frame these situations in terms of the terminology used by education researchers, e.g., pedagogy, learning objectives, or problem-based learning. We found that the instructional developer successfully helped her clientís teaching in part because she addressed and broke down the complexity faced by her clients and she tailored the educational resources to be engineering-specific.
In our web site, we have mimicked some of the strategies of the instructional developer. In particular, we mapped the complex teaching situations of engineering educators to narratives of engineering faculty learning new approaches to these situations. These narratives help introduce education terminology, allow faculty members or instructors to identify themselves in a teaching situation, and connect them to teaching resources deemed relevant to the situation.

We hope that, by providing narratives of the complex situations engineering educators often face, we can attract the attention of actual educators facing their own complex situations and lead them to helpful teaching resources.
Please contact us at next@u.washington.edu if you have any feedback on our site. Read more about the researchers and developers involved on the About Us page.