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Building Technical Capital in Technology Education

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

A Focus on Non-Traditional Students and Non-Traditional Course Delivery Methods

Tagged Division

Two Year College Division

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.247.1 - 24.247.16

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Paper Authors


Armineh Noravian San Francisco State University

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Armineh Noravian currently works as an adjunct faculty in engineering at San Francisco State University and as an educational research associate. Noravian holds a MS in engineering and MA in applied anthropology (cultural) from San Jose State University. She is currently completing her Ed.D. at San Francisco State University. Correspondence regarding this article should be addressed to Armineh Noravian at

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Patricia Irvine San Francisco State University

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Dr. Irvine is Associate Dean of the Graduate College of Education. She teaches social science research courses and serves on the Executive Committee for the in the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership Program. She has researched the social functions of vernacular literacies and languages in a variety of multicultural contexts, such as the Eastern Caribbean, Navajo Nation, and the Southwest United States.

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Building technical capital in the technology education In spite of targeted efforts to expand diversity in the engineering workforce, onlymarginal improvements have been towards recruiting and retaining students other thanwhite males with strong math and science skills who enter four year universities ready tosucceed in engineering education. To meet the quantity and quality of engineers thenation needs, we will need to “tap all talent” (Borrego & Bernhard, 2011, p. 16), and torestructure engineering education so that students experience early in their training whatengineers students do (King, 2012). Because over forty percent of all four-yearengineering graduates began their introductory studies in the community college (Baillie,Pawley, & Riley, 2011), pre-baccalaureate preparation has drawn close attention. However, the makeup of the community college population is not reflected amongthose who graduate from four-year institutions with a bachelor’s degree. Data on two-year institutions showed that 58% of the students in community colleges are women(National Center for Education Statistics, 2011) and 40% are racial/ethnic minorities(Malcom, 2013). This diversity is not reflected in the number of women and Blacks,Hispanics, and Native Americans who graduated from four-year colleges with abachelor’s degree Less than 20% of women (National Science Foundation, 2012a) andless than 13% of Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans earned a bachelor’s degree inengineering from 4-year colleges (National Science Foundation, 2012b) in 2009. Efforts to restructure engineering education have overlooked the deficit of whatthis paper has labeled “technical cultural capital” among students who not only lack acollege going background but also lack experience with “tinkering” or manipulatingtools. Without this background, underrepresented groups are unable to see themselves fitinto the culture of engineering. This study investigated the perspectives of students enrolled in technician levelengineering programs that incorporated well-structured and ill-structured problems(Jonassen, 1997) at three community colleges. The findings indicate students’ perceptionof what they learn and how they make sense of what they learn is linked to their personalhistories – their prior knowledge of how things work (Macaulay & Ardley, 1998). Whenstudents from diverse backgrounds make sense of technical concepts and processes, theywill make sense of them in different ways. Students also develop professional identitiesbased on what they believe they will be required to do in the workplace. This means thatthey are likely to use what they learn in different ways when it comes to implementingsolutions to problems in their workplace. A key factor that allows students to connecttheir experiences with the concepts they learn and their future practices in learningthrough performing projects. These findings suggest that scaffolding experiences — moving from very wellstructured problems to ill-structured problems — allows students who lack “technicalcultural capital” to form professional identities and to succeed in pre-baccalaureateengineering education.Baillie, C., Pawley, A. L., & Riley, D. (Eds.). (2011). Engineering and Social Justice: In the University and Beyond. Purdue University Press.Borrego, M., & Bernhard, J. (2011). The emergence of engineering education research as an international connected field of inquiry, 100(1), 14–47.Jonassen, D. H. (1997). Instructional design models for well-structured and ill-Structured problem-solving learning outcomes. Educational Technology Research and Development, 45(1), 65–94.King, C. J. (2012). Restructuring engineering education: Why, how and when? Journal of Engineering Education, 101(1), 1–5.Macaulay, D., & Ardley, N. (1998). The new way things work. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.Malcom, L. E. (2013). Student diversity in community colleges - Examining trends and understanding the challenges. In J. S. Levin & S. T. Kater (Eds.), Understanding community colleges (pp. 19–35). New York and London: Routledge.National Center for Education Statistics. (2011). Table 205. Total fall enrollment in degree-granting institutions, by level and control of institution, attendance status, and sex of student: Selected years, 1970 through 2010. Digest of Education Statistics. Retrieved December 21, 2012, from Science Foundation. (2012a, January). Table 5-2. Bachelor’s degrees, by field and sex: 2001-09. Retrieved from 2.pdfNational Science Foundation. (2012b, January). Women, minorities, and persons with disabilities in science and engineering: 2011. Retrieved from

Noravian, A., & Irvine, P. (2014, June), Building Technical Capital in Technology Education Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana.

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