PhD project: Supporting Diversity in STEM by Enhancing Problem-Based Learning (PBL) Practices

Job Description

This scholarship will support one researcher to earn a PhD while addressing the research question:
What challenges do women face with collaborative, peer-to-peer and Problem Based Learning while
studying engineering and other STEM courses at university, and how do they deal with these
Across engineering in Ireland, skills shortages represent “a major concern” and “barrier” to growth,
and “the continuing gender gap requires greater attention and action” (Engineers Ireland, 2020).
Addressing shortfalls and increasing diversity requires shifting the culture of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) and STEM learning – it must start with understanding the experiences
of the students who enrol in STEM. The mixed methods PhD study will entail phenomenological
analysis of 71 existing interview transcripts, complemented by a new quantitative survey of STEM
students to identify patterns across TU Dublin. These longitudinal data provide a unique window into
students’ experience of engineering and the active, inquiry-driven, Problem-Based Learning (PBL)
used at TU Dublin. Objectives of the study are to:
• Distil lessons from interviews and surveys to improve attraction, delivery, and retention in
engineering and STEM education and employment
• Assess the degree to which PBL pedagogies support women in engineering
• Describe how women experience PBL in engineering at TU Dublin
• Identify positive and negative aspects of the PBL experience
• Make full use of the existing longitudinal interview data via in-depth analysis
• Extend the value and generalizability of the findings via a quantitative survey
• Assess data for gender, ethnic, and intersectional dimensions
The researcher will receive excellent support and mentorship from the supervising Professors,
Shannon Chance and Brian Bowe, who are widely published in engineering education research and
have used phenomenology and advanced statistical analyses. The researcher will benefit from
structured programmes provided by TU Dublin’s Graduate Research School.

Student requirements for this project
Applicants must have obtained a minimum of a 2.1 honours degree (level 8), or equivalent, in a
relevant (e.g, STEM or social science) subject. A Master’s degree and/or some prior experience in
qualitative or quantitative research is desirable but not essential. The ideal candidate will be highly
self-motivated, with keen interest in STEM education and theories on learning and teaching and the
ability to work both independently and collaboratively. We welcome applications from candidates
from diverse backgrounds and from anywhere in the world. Applicants must meet the minimum
English language requirements.

Funding Details
Student Stipend € 18,500 p.a.
Materials/Travel etc € 2,600 p.a.
Registration Fees/Tuition € 4,500 p.a. (EU fulltime)
or € 9,000 (Non-EU full-time)

Application Deadline 14 October 2021

Applicants for this project are required to complete an Expression of Interest ( and email it to both
[email protected] AND [email protected]