New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering
This work addresses a practical means to more clearly link the completion of an ABET-accredited undergraduate engineering degree with critical thinking about sociotechnical issues. An exercise has been created which can be used to develop and measure an aspect of critical thinking by engineering students in a sociotechnical context. This exercise can be used as one possible measurement of the ability of an engineering student to demonstrate attainment of ABET outcome (h), understanding the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context. This outcome has been viewed as difficult to measure and therefore under consideration to be eliminated from the ABET criteria. The approach is based on asking students to predict impacts of a new technological product as described in a news article. A simple rubric is included which allows numerical grading of student responses. The rubric helps students to discern the difference between impacts and other aspects of new technology such as features, product capabilities, and necessary design requirements. The activity can be completed in a single class session. While more time would be beneficial, an objective of the current work was to create a very short and easily implemented activity so as to facilitate adoption by other faculty. Results show measurable increases in first year engineering students’ ability to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global and societal context. It is vital that the education of today’s engineers expand beyond mere technical competence to include the critical thinking abilities more broadly associated with technological leaders and technologically literate citizens. Considerable work has been done to develop the concepts of engineering and technological literacy as appropriate for the education of all students. At the same time less attention has been given to examining if individuals trained as engineers actually possess a broad understanding of technology and are able to engage in the type of critical thinking and decision making considered vital for a technologically literate citizenry. While the current results reported here are limited, this activity and assessment appear promising. Given the relevance to current discussions of ABET accreditation criteria revisions, this work is being reported at the present stage for the benefit of the engineering education community.
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