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Applying a knowledge-generation epistemological approach to computer science and software engineering education

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Defining and Refining Technological and Engineering Literacy

Tagged Division

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.201.1 - 23.201.13



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Paper Authors


Stephen T Frezza Gannon University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Stephen T. Frezza, C.S.D.P. is a Professor of Software Engineering at Gannon University in Erie, PA (USA). Dr. Frezza is a Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP), and at Gannon pursues research in Program Assessment, Software Engineering Pedagogy, and Engineering Philosopy. His teaching interests include Software Process, Requirements, Design, Testing and Quality Assurance. He is the past chair of the Computer and Information Science Department in delivering accredited undergraduate Computer Science and Management Information Systems programs, as well as an undergraduate Software Engineering and graduate Computer and Information Science program.

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Richard W. Moodey Gannon University

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Dr. Moodey received his PhD in sociology from the University of Chicago in 1971. He has taught at Loyola University of Chicago, Allegheny College, and is currently chair of the department of Criminal Justice and Social Work at Gannon University.

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David Arthur Nordquest Gannon University

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David A. Nordquest is Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Gannon University.

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Krishnakishore Pilla P.E. Gannon University

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Applying a knowledge-generation epistemological approach to computer science and software engineering pedagogyTLC Topic Area: Concepts and Philosophy of Engineering LiteracyThis paper proposes a brief exploration of the epistemology of knowledge, specificallydistinguishing the development of scientific knowledge from the development of engineeringknowledge. Based on a pragmatic theory approach (Pitt), the paper proposes a pattern fordistinguishing the ‘science’ of computer science from its ‘engineering’ aspects. The paper thenapplies these distinctions to traditional Computer Science knowledge, and explores itsrelationship to ‘engineering science’. The implications of this knowledge-generation approach todiscipline exploration are then applied to Software Engineering as an engineering discipline.This application aims at distinguishing Software Engineering from the scientific and engineeringaspects of Computer Science.A cursory introduction to the literature of the philosophy of engineering reveals competingviewpoints on what distinguishes scientific from engineering knowledge, including engineering(and technology) as applied science (Durbin, p. 42) and the influence of knowledge generation asa means to distinguish between ‘scientific’ and ‘engineering’ knowledge. When seen through thelens of a pragmatic theory of knowledge, the crucial characteristics of scientific knowledgeinclude that scientific knowledge is theory bound, and scientific knowledge is developed toexplain the way the world works. (Pitt, p. 2) Engineering knowledge can be considered a distinctform of knowledge since scientific and engineering knowledge aim at different ends. In short,science aims to explain and technology/engineering aims to create artifices. "Technology, thoughit may apply science, is not the same as or entirely applied science" (Vincente, p. 4).The pragmatic theory of knowledge provides a means by which to distinguish, particularly in alearning environment, the critical terms of ‘science’, ‘engineering science’ and ‘engineering’ canbe reliably distinguished. These classifications apply to various engineering disciplines, and aresignificant because they contribute significantly to the organization and deployment of ABET-accredited undergraduate engineering programs. In this context, distinguishing the engineeringcontent and science content of xyz-science (e.g., thermal-science, computer-science,environmental-science) courses are classified directly affects the educational content of theengineering major. This is particularly challenging in Computer Science, which sharesoverlapping intellectual traditions with (Tedre, p. 108) The paper will then explore what effectthis has by dissecting classical computer-science course(s) (Frezza, p. 84), and relate theirscience and engineering components to software engineering and computer science education.WorksCitedDurbin, P. T. (2010). Multiple Facets of Philosophy and Engineering. In I. a. Ibo van de Poel (Ed.),  Philosophy and Engineering, An Emerging Agenda (pp. 41‐47). Springer. Frezza, S. (2010, August). Computer Science:Is it Really the Scientific Foundation for Software  Engineering? Computer, 82‐85. Pitt, J. C. (2007, Fall). What Engineers Know. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology, 5(3). Tedre, M. (2007). Know Your Discipline: Teaching the Philosophy of Computer Science. Journal of  Information Technology Education, 6, 105‐122. Vincente, W. (1990). What Engineers Know and How They Know It. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University  Press.  

Frezza, S. T., & Moodey, R. W., & Nordquest, D. A., & Pilla, K. (2013, June), Applying a knowledge-generation epistemological approach to computer science and software engineering education Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19215

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