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There is growing recognition of the importance of socially engaged engineering skills—conducting engineering work from a holistic and inclusive perspective by gathering, and utilizing, and equitably applying rich and diverse contextual information about stakeholders, communities, ethics, economics, and the environment—in order for engineers to effectively address the complex problems common in the field today. Despite a high-level emphasis on such skills, research suggests that engineering training generally does not adequately prepare students in this area and that students struggle to implement socially-oriented considerations in practice. Instructors may face challenges adapting current curriculum to better train students in socially engaged engineering skills due to time constraints, questions about how social aspects align with technical course content, and a need for appropriate training, tools, and resources for teaching these skills. In one effort to address these challenges, the Center for Socially Engaged Design (C-SED) at the University of Michigan developed the Social Engagement Toolkit (SET). This Toolkit is a hybrid learning approach that enables non-expert instructors to select from and use on-demand lessons on a variety of socially engaged engineering and design topics to use in their courses. Our team is engaged in work exploring the implementation, uptake, and impact of the SET in a range of engineering courses.
In the current paper, we detail our efforts developing a scenario-based pre/post interview study to explore how, if at all, students consider socially-oriented aspects of an engineering problem prior to and after participating in a course that utilizes the SET in its curriculum. We describe our considerations in designing the study and our process of identifying appropriate scenarios that address our research goals. Developing an effective scenario-based study is a complex, iterative process and we share several insights and recommendations based on our experiences. Part of our study design and refinement process included conducting pilot interviews with graduate students who are experienced in socially engaged engineering work. In the full paper we characterize their reactions to our scenario tasks, to provide insight into how students with greater awareness of social dimensions of engineering work may think about a problem and how they attend to key aspects of said problem. The lessons and preliminary findings discussed in our paper have relevance for other researchers and educators interested in developing their own engineering scenario-based studies as well as those working to better integrate technical and social dimensions of engineering.
Mosyjowski, E., & Dugan, K., & Daly, S., & Seifert, C., & Pollack, E. (2022, August), Assessing Socially Engaged Engineering Training on Students’ Problem Solving: The Development of a Scenario-based Assessment Approach Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. https://peer.asee.org/42001
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