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Board 4: Curriculum on Diversity and Ethics: Impact in an Introductory Bioengineering Course

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Biomedical Engineering Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Biomedical Engineering

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Paper Authors

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C. Gunnarsson Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Camille Birch University of Washington

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Camille Birch is a graduate of the Bioengineering and Computer Science departments at the University of Washington. She developed curriculum concerning the interplay of diversity and ethics for undergraduate engineering students at UW and is interested in the power of education to enact change in future generations of engineers. She currently works for Microsoft in the Bay Area.

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Dianne Grayce Hendricks University of Washington

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Dr. Dianne Hendricks is a Lecturer in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering and the Director of the Engineering Communication Program at the University of Washington. She designs and teaches courses involving universal design, technical communication, ethics, and diversity, equity and inclusion. She co-founded HuskyADAPT (Accessible Design and Play Technology), where she mentors UW students in design for local needs experts with disabilities. She also leads STEM outreach activities for the UW community and local K-12 students involving toy adaptation for children with disabilities. Dianne holds a PhD in Genetics from Duke University, and BS in Molecular Biology and BA in Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin.

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Curriculum on Diversity and Ethics: Impact in an Introductory Bioengineering Course

This work-in-progress describes the impact of introducing a novel curriculum focused on the interplay of diversity and ethics in an engineering context in a large introductory bioengineering course at the University of Washington. This builds on our previous work, where we discussed curriculum design and pilot efforts of a short module [1-2]. Here we present an initial examination of the impact of the first in-depth offering of our curriculum through a new honors section of the large introductory bioengineering course.

In the honors section, we explore topics such as the importance of diversity and ethics competency in engineering; historic and current case studies of diversity-related ethical issues in bioengineering, and how historical perceptions and contexts still influence modern scientific thinking and engineering design; advocacy and representation of minorities in engineering; evidence supporting the value of inclusive teaching and diverse teams; and best practices for advocacy and representation of diverse peoples in engineering.

The first offering of the honors section was a 2-credit add-on to the introductory bioengineering course. The honors section was comprised of 12 students who were concurrently enrolled in the large introductory bioengineering course (enrollment: 93 students total). The honors students attended the same class sessions and completed all assignments as their non-honors peers. In addition, the honors students attended a weekly two-hour discussion section and completed additional assignments including weekly readings, written reflections, and a final paper on a topic of their choice related to the role of diversity/diverse identities in engineering practice.

In this work-in-progress, we will examine content of common assignments (i.e. assignments that were completed by all students) in order to compare emergent themes in work completed by two student groups: 1) Students enrolled in the introductory course only (n=81), who participated in a short module on ethics and diversity consisting of 2 class sessions, assigned readings, and one reflection assignment; 2) Students enrolled in the honors section (n=12), who participated in the module in the large course (described above) and in addition engaged in ethics and diversity topics in-depth through weekly discussion sections and multiple additional assignments.

For example, we will examine content in the final project and describe differences in design considerations for underrepresented people (e.g. people with disabilities) and emphasis on the social justice aspects of design.

Additional assessment of the impact of the honors section and how the new curriculum offered in the honors section contributed to the class as a whole will involve student self-reported data from written surveys, end-of-course student evaluations, instructor observations, and excerpts of student work. At the conference, we will share curricular materials including lectures, assignments, reading lists, and in-class discussion prompts. In addition, we will share how have thoughtfully considered student feedback and our own observations from the first offering of the honors section as we design an expanded curriculum for a future course.

Gunnarsson, C., & Birch, C., & Hendricks, D. G. (2019, June), Board 4: Curriculum on Diversity and Ethics: Impact in an Introductory Bioengineering Course Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32340

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