NCEER as nexus IDEA VaNTH SESP Searle NCLT CCL SILC

The graphic above indicates how NCEER makes connections between the many different programs and centers across Northwestern from which NCEER Scholars are drawn: the Segal Design Institute (Segal), The Searle Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning (Searle Center), The School for Education and Social Policy (SESP), and several NSF-funded projects with components at Northwestern: the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL), the National Center for Nanotechnology Learning and Teaching (NCLT), the Center for Connected Learning (CCL), and the Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center (SILC).

About NCEER

Download the NCEER Fact Sheet here.

NCEER is the umbrella organization for engineering education research at Northwestern. Our mission is to serve as a catalyst for the transformation of engineering education within Northwestern and beyond. 

Supported by the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, our primary focus is on undergraduate engineering education.  However, much of our research is applicable to STEM students generally, and some involves K-12 outreach as well.  See our Research and Projects page for examples of current and past NCEER research projects. 

While NCEER does not directly fund research, we provide the necessary organizational infrastructure to nurture collaboration and promote research.  This infrastructure is vital to engineering education research due to its deeply interdisciplinary nature.  Engineering education research requires the methods of learning science, including quasi-experimental design and qualitative and quantitative methods – but also requires engaged involvement from the engineering faculty. This is an unusual combination of different communities. NCEER is building a community of interdisciplinary experts to carry out the research necessary to reform engineering education, as well as promoting awareness of this work within McCormick.  Much of our research is in collaboration with faculty from the School of Education and Social Policy and the Searle Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning.  Some of the other programs from which NCEER Scholars are drawn include the Segal Design Institute and several NSF-funded projects including the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching and Learning (CIRTL), the National Center for Nanotechnology Learning and Teaching, the Center for Connected Learning, and the Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center, all of which have major components at Northwestern. NCEER also serves as a hub, disseminating research and forging relationships within the engineering school, across schools at Northwestern, and with other universities with similar aims. 

NCEER is the successor to many prior individual engineering education research efforts at Northwestern, including the only NSF Engineering Research Center ever dedicated to education, the VaNTH ERC for Bioengineering Educational Technologies.  Such precedents in McCormick and other NU schools over the past decade have enabled NCEER to become one of only a handful of organizations nationally able to consistently pursue this new kind of engineering education research. 

Our Motivating Vision

NCEER Director

NCEER Director Rob Linsenmeier

Engineering education must evolve because engineers must evolve.  The engineering profession will require highly flexible technical expertise combined with creativity and tempered by a sophisticated appreciation of human needs.

Beyond a mastery of traditional technical skills, the engineer of the future must be equipped to deal with a rapidly changing technical landscape that will require continuous, independent, self-supported learning. Engineering technical knowledge becomes outdated at a faster rate than ever before, and this trend is only accelerating.  Equipping students with static technical knowledge and skills is no longer enough. The engineer of tomorrow will still require a solid technical grounding.  But he or she must also be a flexible expert, adaptable to – and able to innovate within – a wide range of problem areas and scenarios. 

Engineering education must also expand to encompass more than technical issues.  Today’s engineers are already entering a field that is more globalized and team-based than ever before.  In these teams, engineers must work across disciplines as well as cultures. 

Finally, engineering itself makes more of an impact upon society and the planet than ever before.  Technical challenges are implicated in many of the most pressing issues facing the world.  Engineers are urgently needed who understand not only technology but the scope and nature of these challenges – and in particular, the way in which they are more than just technical problems, but also connect with broader social and ethical issues. 

Beyond the new demands placed upon engineers that engineering education must address, the practice of education itself must also evolve.  Education practice must learn how to harness new technologies to improve educational outcomes, from blended online learning tools to interactive classroom technologies.  Therefore, another focus of NCEER research is on applying learning technologies in order to put them to their best use based on empirical data rather than supposition.

In addition, engineering education must apply and help to advance developments in the science of teaching and learning, including research into learning styles, pedagogy and cognitive science.  Education itself must be a focus of scientific research to ensure that advancements in it are reliable and evidence-based. 

Through a focus on research, NCEER strives to illuminate the path to most effectively educate tomorrow's transformative engineers.