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A Case Study on Macroethics and Social Justice at the University of [BLINDED], Canada

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

International Division Technical Session 6: Monitoring, Evaluating and Research

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Paper Authors


Kathryn Johnson Colorado School of Mines

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Kathryn Johnson is a Professor at the Colorado School of Mines in the Department of Electrical Engineering and is Jointly Appointed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. After starting her career with a research focus on wind energy control systems, first developed an interest in engineering education research in the Fall 2011 when she experienced Aalborg University's (Denmark) Problem-Based Learning philosophy. Since then, she has led two NSF grants in social justice and sociotechncial thinking in engineering education. She integrates her research areas in engineering education and wind energy control systems to help students understand the sociotechnical nature of engineering practice in her own technical field (control systems) as well as other electrical and mechanical engineering specialties via collaborations with colleagues at multiple universities.

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This paper uses a case study approach to understand how macroethics and social justice are conceptualized and incorporated into teaching and research at the University of Calgary. Two sub-cases are examined: the Werklund School of Education and the Schulich School of Engineering to enable similarities and differences to be assessed between people trained in and affiliated with these specialty areas.

The author has previously studied macroethics and social justice within engineering education at a public university in the United States and this paper will conclude with an discussion of insights that might lead to new research to understand similarities and differences between the two universities in the two countries. Case study research is intended to focus on a single example or phenomenon and this paper is not intended to create generalizable information about the two countries as a whole. However, some insight can still be gained from participants’ explicit statements about the local and national contexts in which their university is located.

Data for the analysis is drawn from semi-structured interviews with 17 faculty members and postdocs involved in research and/or teaching at the University of Calgary. Nine faculty hold primary or secondary appointments in the Werklund School of Education and eight hold appointments in the Schulich School of Engineering. Data collection took place during the Fall 2021 semester. Due to continuing impacts of COVID-19, some interviewees opted for virtual interviews while others preferred in-person interviews (following university safety protocols). In both cases, interviews were audio-recorded and then transcribed for analysis. Human subjects ethics approval was obtained for the study according to the established processes at the University of Calgary.

In particular, this paper focuses on three of the questions from the semi-structured interviews to understand the two sub-cases of people affiliated with education and engineering: 1. How are “macroethics” and “social justice” conceptualized by the interviewees? 2. Do macroethics and social justice play a role in the interviewees’ teaching and/or research, and if so in what ways? 3. How do interviewees describe the impact of the local context (city, province, etc.) on their answers?

Johnson, K. (2022, August), A Case Study on Macroethics and Social Justice at the University of [BLINDED], Canada Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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