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Comparative Dimensions of Disciplinary Culture

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Cultivating Engineering Scholarship and Research Mindsets Among URM Students

Tagged Division

Minorities in Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.369.1 - 26.369.15



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Paper Authors

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Homero Murzi Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16


Thomas Martin Virginia Tech

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Tom Martin is a Professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and
Computer Engineering at Virginia Tech, with courtesy appointments in
Computer Science and the School of Architecture + Design. He is the
co-director of the Virginia Tech E-textiles Lab and a Senior Fellow at
the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology. He received his Ph.D. in
Electrical and Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and
his B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the University of Cincinnati.
His research and teaching interests include wearable computing, electronic
textiles, and interdisciplinary design teams for pervasive computing.
In 2006 he was selected for the National Science Foundation's Presidential
Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) for his research
in e-textile-based wearable computing.

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Lisa D. McNair Virginia Tech

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Lisa D. McNair is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she also serves as co-Director of the VT Engineering Communication Center (VTECC). Her research interests include interdisciplinary collaboration, design education, communication studies, identity theory and reflective practice. Projects supported by the National Science Foundation include exploring disciplines as cultures, interdisciplinary pedagogy for pervasive computing design; writing across the curriculum in Statics courses; as well as a CAREER award to explore the use of e-portfolios to promote professional identity and reflective practice.

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Marie C. Paretti Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Marie C. Paretti is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she co-directs the Virginia Tech Engineering Communications Center (VTECC). Her research focuses on communication in engineering design, interdisciplinary communication and collaboration, design education, and gender in engineering. She was awarded a CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation to study expert teaching in capstone design courses, and is co-PI on numerous NSF grants exploring communication, design, and identity in engineering. Drawing on theories of situated learning and identity development, her work includes studies on the teaching and learning of communication, effective teaching practices in design education, the effects of differing design pedagogies on retention and motivation, the dynamics of cross-disciplinary collaboration in both academic and industry design environments, and gender and identity in engineering.

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Dimensions  of  Disciplinary  Culture     to  Enhance  Innovation  and  Retention  among  Engineering  Students    Despite  the  need  for  engineers  that  are  innovative  and  able  to  collaboratively  work  in  interdisciplinary  teams,  the  engineering  education  field  has  been  slow  promoting  effective  pedagogies  that  develop  those  skills  in  engineering  students.  In  addition,  engineering  schools  are  still  struggling  with  the  attraction  and  retention  of  underrepresented  students,  whose  diversity  can  contribute  to  the  development  of  creativity  and  collaboration.    The  lack  of  diversity  can  be  attributed  to  the  disciplinary  culture  of  engineering  that  for  so  many  years  has  been  not  welcoming  enough  for  those  groups.  We  are  investigating  patterns  of  cultural  traits,  to  build  pedagogies  of  inclusive  and  collaborative  innovation  as  well  as  strategies  for  recruiting  and  retention  efforts.  Specifically,  we  are  applying  Hofstede’s  theory  of  dimensions  of  national  business  cultures  (power  distance,  uncertainty  avoidance,  individualism,  masculinity)  (Hofstede,  2003)  to  academic  disciplines  to  explain  how  students  develop  skills  to  operate  within  and  across  disciplinary  boundaries.  We  are  comparing  two  engineering  majors  at  a  research  focused  public  university  with  several  contrasting  disciplines,  based  on  the  Disciplinary  Grouping  suggested  by  Nulty,  1996.  Preliminary  data  was  collected  during  the  Fall  semester  2013  using  a  version  of  Hofstede’s  survey  in  every  major  at  a  research  focused  University.  Results  did  not  show  significant  differences  between  the  majors.  Therefore,  after  improving  the  survey,  we  are  planning  to  focus  on  12  majors  (based  on  Nulty  1996)  in  order  to  answer  the  following  research  questions:  (i)  How  do  Hofstede’s  dimensions  of  national  cultures  map  to  academic  disciplines?  (ii)  What  are  the  relationships  between  the  dimensions  of  culture  and  a)  student  choice  of  major,  and  b)  student  success  with  a  major?    While  Hofstede’s  theory  is  correlational  rather  than  causal,  we  argue  that  a  better  understanding  of  disciplinary  culture  from  the  perspective  of  characteristics  aligned  with  innovation  will  help  identify  needed  interventions  and  shape  pedagogical  practices  that  effectively  enhance  innovation  skills  for  engineering  students.  Results  will  help  understand  how  aspects  of  engineering  culture  compare  to  other  disciplines  in  the  same  institution.            

Murzi, H., & Martin, T., & McNair, L. D., & Paretti, M. C. (2015, June), Comparative Dimensions of Disciplinary Culture Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23708

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