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Assessing Socially Engaged Engineering Training on Students’ Problem Solving: The Development of a Scenario-based Assessment Approach

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Erika Mosyjowski University of Michigan

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Erika A. Mosyjowski (she/her/hers) works for the Center of Socially Engaged Design at the University of Michigan as the Research and Faculty Engagement Manager. She has a B.A. in Psychology and Sociology from Case Western Reserve University and a M.A. and Ph.D. in Higher Education from the University of Michigan. Her research interests include engineering culture, fostering engineers’ sociocultural and contextual awareness, engineers’ academic and career decision-making, and ways to effectively facilitate more diverse, inclusive, and equitable engineering environments.

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Kelley Dugan University of Michigan

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Kelley E. Dugan is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan. Her current research focuses on exploration of design process models, assessment of socially engaged engineering skills, and assessments of systems thinking skills. Her research interests include complex problem solving, front-end design practices, and design behavior for sustainability. She has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from The Ohio State University. Prior to starting graduate school, she worked in the consumer appliance industry for two years. Kelley is also a Graduate Facilitator with the Center for Socially Engaged Design and a Graduate Academic Liaison with the Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning.

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Shanna Daly University of Michigan

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Shanna Daly is an Associate Professor in Mechanical Engineering in the College of Engineering at the University of Michigan. She has a B.E. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Dayton and a Ph.D. degree in Engineering Education from Purdue University. In her work, she characterizes front-end design practices across the student to practitioner continuum, develops empirically-based tools to support design best practices, and studies the impact of front-end design tools on design success. Specifically, she focuses on divergent and convergent thinking processes in design innovations, including investigations of concept generation and development, exploring problem spaces to identify real needs and innovation opportunities, and approaches to integrate social and cultural elements of design contexts into design decisions.

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Colleen Seifert University of Michigan

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Elizabeth Pollack

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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. 10.18260/1-2--42001

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