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Board 415: Transforming Engineering Education for Neurodiversity: Epistemic Communities as a Model for Change

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Conference

2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Baltimore , Maryland

Publication Date

June 25, 2023

Start Date

June 25, 2023

End Date

June 28, 2023

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count

17

DOI

10.18260/1-2--42735

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/42735

Download Count

175

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Paper Authors

biography

Maria Chrysochoou University of Connecticut

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Maria (Marisa) Chrysochoou is a Professor and Head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Connecticut.

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Arash Esmaili Zaghi P.E. University of Connecticut

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Arash E. Zaghi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Connecticut. He received his PhD in 2009 from the University of Nevada, Reno, and continued there as a Research Scientist. His latest

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Connie Mosher Syharat University of Connecticut

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Connie Mosher Syharat is a Ph.D. student in Curriculum and Instruction and a Research Assistant at the University of Connecticut as a part of two neurodiversity-centered NSF-funded projects, Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (NSF:RED) "Beyond Accommodation: Leveraging Neurodiversity for Engineering Innovation" and Innovations in Graduate Education (NSF:IGE) Encouraging the Participation of Neurodiverse Students in STEM Graduate Programs to Radically Enhance the Creativity of the Professional Workforce". In her time at the University of Connecticut she has also has served as Program Assistant for an summer program in engineering for middle school students with ADHD. Previously, she spent eight years as a K-12 teacher in Connecticut, where she maintained a focus on providing a varied learning environment and differentiated instruction for all types of learners. She received her Master’s Degree in Modern Languages from Central Connecticut State University in 2011. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Hispanic Studies and her teaching certificate from Connecticut College in 2001. She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Curriculum and Instruction at UConn's Neag School of Education.

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Todd Campbell University of Connecticut

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Todd Campbell is a Professor and Head of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Connecticut.

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Abstract

A growing body of literature suggests that neurodiverse learners, including autistic, ADHD, and dyslexic students, may possess strengths that are highly desirable within engineering disciplines, such as systems thinking, creativity, and 3D visualization skills. However, despite the potential of neurodiverse individuals to contribute to innovative solutions to engineering problems, they remain highly underrepresented in engineering majors. With this in mind, a department-level initiative was established to radically transform the educational experience by moving beyond mere accommodation of learning differences and empower students to leverage their unique strengths. In undertaking this transformation, an epistemic communities model of change was implemented as part of an NSF Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (RED) grant within the context of a Civil and Environmental Engineering department at an R1 institution. Epistemic communities unite members in a shared purpose through the establishment and transmission of shared values and practices, allowing stakeholders to build community from within and sustain lasting change. Through our epistemic community, we aim to contribute to a paradigm shift that transforms how university faculty and staff understand and perceive neurodiversity while enhancing the educational experiences of neurodiverse students. This paper presents an overview of these departmental transformation efforts, with a particular focus on the shared theory, code, and tools around which our epistemic community is constructed. First, we present a social ecology theoretical framework (theory) that moves away from the predominant, deficit-based approach toward neurodiversity. Second, we discuss the infusion of strengths-based language (code) related to neurodiversity and its role in contributing to a collective mind shift. Third, we present a discussion of the practices, structures, and artefacts (tools), such as shared standards for course revision, that were established and co-created by community members to facilitate departmental change.

Chrysochoou, M., & Esmaili Zaghi, A., & Syharat, C. M., & Campbell, T. (2023, June), Board 415: Transforming Engineering Education for Neurodiversity: Epistemic Communities as a Model for Change Paper presented at 2023 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Baltimore , Maryland. 10.18260/1-2--42735

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