July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session
Engineers’ are increasingly tasked with addressing complex challenges that require both technical proficiency and an ability to understand and account for the broader human and contextual factors that shape and are shaped by engineering solutions. In response to this need, there have been numerous calls for engineers across a range of educational and professional contexts to develop systems thinking skills. Often within engineering, conversations of systems thinking disproportionately emphasize relationships between multiple technical components or a product or process compared to equally important considerations of contextual and human aspects of a complex problem. Considering human and contextual elements of complex engineering problems in addition to the technical aspects is important for several reasons. First, accounting for all of these types of factors can help ensure engineering solutions are effective, best meet the needs of stakeholders and affected communities, and avoid causing undue harm. In addition, centering social and contextual competencies in addition to technical ones as core aspects of engineering systems thinking may help promote broader participation in engineering, as research suggests socially-aware engineering work attracts a more diverse pool of engineers. Our team’s work advances a conceptualization of comprehensive systems thinking in engineering, defined as “a holistic approach to problem solving in which linkages and interactions of the immediate work with constituent parts, the larger sociocultural context, and potential impacts over time are identified and incorporated into decision making.”
In order to better understand and support engineers’ development of comprehensive systems thinking skills, our team endeavored to understand the aspects of engineering work emphasized across a range of educational and professional settings. In addition, to understand the implications for engineers’ continued participation in the field, we sought to characterize the extent to which emphasized aspects of engineering work align with engineers’ personal perceptions of important or valuable aspects of engineering work. To do this, our team developed a cart sort-based interview protocol in which participants are asked to sort through a list of 26 engineering practices to indicate those most and least emphasized in the particular engineering contexts in which they engage and to spark conversation about how these (un)emphasized practices align with their personal priorities and values. Our team tested both in person and virtual versions of this interview protocol that are adaptable to a range of engineering contexts and allow flexibility in data collection. In this paper, we provide a detailed overview of the two forms of this instrument, describe data analysis procedures, and highlight examples of the type of data elicited from both forms of this instrument. Findings from interviews using this protocol enable our team to characterize contexts in which various systems thinking and other engineering skills may or may not be fostered and identify instances of dissonance experienced by engineers related to the types of practices emphasized in a given setting that could potentially affect their engagement or persistence in engineering.
Work from this project was funded by an NSF grant under the Engineering Education and Centers (EEC) division.
Mosyjowski, E. A., & Daly, S. R., & Lattuca, L. R. (2021, July), Assessing Emphasized Engineering Practices and Their Alignment with Engineers’ Personal Values Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36707
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