June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering
The work reported here describes the development and initial testing of a framework to help assess the broad understanding of technology by individuals who are not specifically educated as engineers. It is generally accepted that technology is essential to our current lifestyles and well-being, and the importance of engineering to economic prosperity is commonly acknowledged. However limited work has been done determine the extent to which undergraduates possess a general understanding of the principles, products, and processes of technology. A challenge in developing assessments of engineering and technological literacy is the diverse audiences seen as beneficiaries of such knowledge. Arguments have been made for greater understanding of engineering and technology for diverse groups such as the general public; liberal arts undergraduates; managers in technologically-based industries; other professionals such as lawyers, policy makers, and public servants; and even those trained as engineers. Each of these groups is seen as benefiting from different aspects of technological and engineering literacy leading to difficulty in developing broadly applicable assessment methods. To address this dilemma the current work developed a framework based on the fundamental nature of technological systems and, using this framework, developed an initial engineering reasoning assessment. The basic elements of the framework are the following. Technological systems are created to achieve a function that is accomplished through physical form. Technological systems transform materials, energy, and information. Function is provided by components combined into systems. Components utilize physical phenomena which can be modeled using mathematics. Systems employ diverse interacting phenomena. Component functions transfer across systems. Systems can become components in other systems and systems are sociotechnical. System design creates component ensembles with emergent properties. Technological system domains are groups of systems related by a set of shared component types and underlying physical principles. Technological systems evolve often by a process of substitution at the component and subsystem level. This framework is independent of any particular type of technology and lends itself to higher order thinking rather than simple recall of specific facts or repetition of rote procedures. A set of pilot questions has been developed and tested with a range of students across multiple institutions. The results of this initial testing are described. This work seeks to demonstrate the potential feasibility of establishing assessment methods that can be used with students who are not majoring in one of the STEM disciplines.
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