June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
Educational Research and Methods
15.71.1 - 15.71.10
A Pilot Validation Study of the Epistemological Beliefs Assessment for Engineering (EBAE): First-Year Engineering Student Beliefs
This paper presents a study assessing first-year students’ engineering epistemological beliefs or beliefs about engineering knowledge and knowing. A small cohort of first-year engineering students pilot tested a new quantitative instrument called the Epistemological Beliefs Assessment for Engineering (EBAE). Student responses to the EBAE were used to validate the instrument and analyze the epistemological beliefs – certainty of knowledge, simplicity of knowledge, source of knowing, and justification for knowing – of first-year engineering students. Results of this study produced thirteen validated items, which gauged first-year engineering students’ epistemological beliefs as slightly sophisticated – mean score of 63.8 ≥ 8.4 out of 100.
In 2006, a special report addressing The Research Agenda for the New Discipline of Engineering Education identified five research areas to “inform how the content should be taught as well as how future learning environments should be designed”; one of these areas was Engineering Epistemologies. Epistemology is a branch of philosophy that concerns the nature and scope of knowledge and the process(es) by which knowledge is gained. Epistemology of engineering, therefore, addresses the questions of how we come to know engineering, what engineering learning is, and what constitutes engineering thinking and knowledge.
The inclusion of engineering epistemology as a main area of engineering education research exemplifies a shift in what is important to know, teach, and research about engineering. Emphasis placed on characterizing the nature of engineering knowledge is a major step into analyzing the “inherently philosophical character of engineering”. This aspect is often overlooked in engineering education even though a discussion of a philosophy of engineering and engineering education has occurred for some time.[3-11]
In this paper we will discuss a study we conducted looking at first-year engineering students’ engineering epistemological beliefs; i.e., the beliefs students hold to be true about the nature of engineering knowledge and the nature of knowing engineering. We will first supply a brief history of the theory and the work that has been conducted to investigate epistemological beliefs with some insight into a philosophy of engineering. We will then describe the development of a quantitative instrument designed to measure engineering epistemological beliefs. Finally we will discuss the results of a pilot study that we conducted using our instrument to analyze first-year engineering students’ engineering epistemological beliefs. These steps will be taken to answer two research questions:
1) Does our instrument accurately measure engineering epistemological beliefs? 2) What are the engineering epistemological beliefs held by first-year engineering students?
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