Teaching and Engineering Education Research for Frank Fisher

Adaptive Expertise

According to the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) Engineering Criteria 2000, "engineering programs must be designed to prepare graduates for the practice of engineering at a professional level." This suggests that in addition to engineering skills and content knowledge engineering schools should strive to develop additional skill sets in their students which will better prepare them to utilize what they have learned in school in industry.

In an effort to better understand the types of cognitive skills required of engineers, general work in the cognitive and learning sciences in the area of "adaptive expertise" was studied and adapted specifically with the practice of engineering in mind. In this context the adaptive expert was defined as an individual who possesses the content knowledge of an expert, but who in addition displays specific cognitive dispositions that augment and enhance their ability to effectively utilize and extend their content knowledge. Through this review four constructs that have been identified (multiple perspectives, metacognition, goals and beliefs, and epistemology) as forming the foundation of adaptiveness in this context of engineering practice.

Data collection involving undergraduate engineering students using carefully designed student surveys and a small number of in-depth student interviews has shown that this paradigm may have useful implications in engineering education. Specifically,
1. Preliminary results suggest a relationship between high adaptiveness and high GPAs in undergraduate students
2. Adaptiveness increases as students progress through the undergraduate curriculum
3. Students scoring high in adaptiveness were able to recall specific instances in their experience that led them to become "more adaptive." Typically these experiences were related to design work, internships, and co-op experiences led to increases across each of the four dimensions of AE.

For more information there is an slightly expanded discussion of adaptive expertise here, or see:

Fisher, FT, and PL Peterson (2001). "A Tool to Measure Adaptive Expertise in Biomedical Engineering Students" Multimedia Division(Session 2793) Proceedings for the 2001 ASEE Annual Conference, June 24-27, Albuquerque, NM. (PDF file)

(This work was conducted in conjunction with the VaNTH Engineering Research Center, The Biomedical Engineering Department of Northwestern University, and the School of Engineering and Social Policy of Northwestern University.)

Engineering Education Interests


Teaching Experience

Associate Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering (Aug 1 2010 - current)
Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering (Fall 2004 – July 31, 2010)

Instructor, Department of Mechanical Engineering (Fall 2003)

Graduate Teaching Assistant Fellow, Searle Center for Teaching Excellence (2000, 2001)
Teaching Assistant, Department of Mechanical Engineering (September 1997 – December 2001)
Teaching Assistant, School of Education and Social Policy (Fall 2001)

Master Teacher (Summer 1998, Summer 1999)

National High School Institute - Summer Program Instructor (Summer 1996, Summer 1997)

Undergraduate Teaching Assistant (September 1993 – May 1995)

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Last Updated: June 26, 2017
Dr. Frank Fisher
Associate Professor
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Stevens Institute of Technology
Castle Point on Hudson
Hoboken, NJ 07030

phone: 201-216-8913
emailID: ffisher