Asee peer logo

Applying "Cultural Consensus Analysis" To A Subgroup Of Engineering Educators

Download Paper |


2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Faculty Attitudes and Perceptions

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.213.1 - 13.213.16



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Susan Lord University of San Diego

visit author page

Susan M. Lord received a B.S. from Cornell University and the M.S. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. She is currently Professor and Coordinator of Electrical Engineering at the University of San Diego. Her teaching and research interests include electronics, optoelectronics, materials science, first year engineering courses, as well as feminist and liberative pedagogies. Dr. Lord served as General Co-Chair of the 2006 Frontiers in Education Conference. She has been awarded an NSF CAREER and ILI grants. She is currently working on a collaborative NSF-funded Gender in Science and Engineering project investigating persistence of women in engineering undergraduate programs. Dr. Lord’s industrial experience includes AT&T Bell Laboratories, General Motors Laboratories, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, and SPAWAR Systems Center.

visit author page

author page

Michelle Camacho University of San Diego


Christina Aneshansley University of San Diego

visit author page

Christina N. Aneshansley is a senior at the University of San Diego. She will graduate in December 2008 with a B.S. /B.A. in Electrical Engineering and a minor in Mathematics. Christina is currently working as an intern at General Atomics with the test-engineering department. She is also working on a senior design project sponsored by General Atomics and is a member of IEEE.

visit author page

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Applying “Cultural Consensus Analysis” to a Subgroup of Engineering Educators Abstract

In this paper, we review the theoretical premises of cultural consensus analysis and offer a detailed description of its methodological components, including data collection and analytical procedures. We demonstrate how this quantitative method drawn from cultural anthropology could be used in engineering education research. Our findings indicate that a measurable amount of consensus regarding beliefs about effective teaching exists among the engineering educators in our study. According to the mathematical criteria of the cultural consensus model, this population constitutes a cultural group. Further, the beliefs listed and prioritized by respondents indicate that a coherent cultural domain exists for “effective teaching”. The wider implications of this research include not only potential applicability of this method within engineering education research but also a critical analysis of variations among engineering educators and a contribution to the emerging discourses of engineering education as a “culture”.

1. Introduction Some researchers have suggested that engineering education may be described as a “culture” in which knowledge, beliefs and practices are shared.1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Less attention has been paid to the nuances within engineering education, the variability in the degree to which members accept or share a base of knowledge, beliefs and practices. Quantitative methods can be used to test whether cultural constructs are shared among some engineering educators. One anthropological research method, “cultural consensus analysis,”6 measures the extent to which group members agree or disagree about beliefs or practices. Specifically, to what extent do individuals agree or disagree with the group? In our case, do engineering educators share beliefs about teaching? Can we conceptualize them as a cultural group, based on their beliefs, or are their beliefs idiosyncratic and random? To answer these questions we began researching a subgroup of engineering educators. We identified attendees at the 2006 “Frontiers in Education” (FIE) conference as a “subgroup” of engineering educators because the annual conference is devoted to improving engineering education (for example, the conference theme for FIE 2008 is “Racing toward Innovation in Engineering Education”). Given this association, do these members share a cultural model about what constitutes effective teaching? And if so, how might their beliefs differ from other engineers who do not attend conferences specific to engineering pedagogy? These questions motivate us to study “intracultural variability” – the extent to which group members agree and disagree. We suggest, following cognitive anthropological theory, that agreement or “shared knowledge” can be measured and is an indicator of shared culture.

The culture of engineering education, however, is varied and diverse, contextual and dynamic. This analysis presents a snapshot of one cultural construct. Just as we specifically examine one subgroup of engineering educators (many of whom, in the qualitative interviews, expressed a fluency in pedagogical discourses and eloquently described situationally-specific modes of learning/teaching), other subgroups of engineers may have strongly differing ideas about how to effectively teach. One objective of this paper is to bring data to bear on the idea of an “engineering education culture”. Based on evidence presented below, the “culture of engineering education” is not monolithic; rather, data show that pockets of instrumental actors

Lord, S., & Camacho, M., & Aneshansley, C. (2008, June), Applying "Cultural Consensus Analysis" To A Subgroup Of Engineering Educators Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3809

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2008 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015