• change;
  • diffusion of innovations;
  • faculty development


Despite decades of effort focused on improvement of engineering education, many recent advances have not resulted in systemic change. Diffusion of innovations theory is used to better understand this phenomenon.

Purpose (Hypothesis)

Research questions include: How widespread is awareness and adoption of established engineering education innovations? Are there differences by discipline or institutional type? How do engineering department chairs find out about engineering education innovations? What factors do engineering department chairs cite as important in adoption decisions?


U.S. engineering department chairs were surveyed regarding their awareness and department use of seven engineering education innovations. One hundred ninety-seven usable responses are presented primarily as categorical data with Chi square tests where relevant.


Overall, the awareness rate was 82 percent, while the adoption rate was 47 percent. Eighty-two percent of engineering departments employ student-active pedagogies (the highest). Mechanical and civil engineering had the highest rates, in part due to many design-related innovations in the survey. Few differences by institution type were evident. In the past, word of mouth and presentations were far more effective than publications in alerting department chairs to the innovations. Department chairs cited financial resources, faculty time and attitudes, and student satisfaction and learning as major considerations in adoption decisions.


The importance of disciplinary networks was evident during survey administration and in the results. Specific recommendations are offered to employ these networks and the engineering professional societies for future engineering education improvement efforts.