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Conceptualizing Authenticity in Engineering Education: A Systematic Literature Review

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Standards and K-12 Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.340.1 - 25.340.19



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Paper Authors


Jing Wang Purdue University

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Jing Wang obtained her bachelor's degree in nuclear engineering and nuclear technology from Tsinghua University in 2005. Then, she joined the master's program in the School of Nulcear Engineering, Purdue University, and graduated in 2008. In 2009, she joined the master's program in Krannert School of Management, Purdue University, and worked as a Research Assistant in the School of Engineering Education, Purdue University, from 2010 to 2011.

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Melissa Dyehouse Purdue University

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Melissa Dyehouse is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Studies and conducts research at the Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning (INSPIRE). She received her Ph.D. in educational psychology from Purdue University with a focus on educational research methodology and assessment. Her research at INSPIRE involves engineering as a “caring” discipline in the context of broader social and environmental concerns. This research involves creating awareness of engineering as a discipline that has broad and meaningful impacts on society and the environment, studying the effects of students’ perceptions of engineers and engineering, and developing programmatic components to broaden students’ understanding of engineering.

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Nicole R. Weber Lesley University

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Nicole Weber is Director of Science in Education program at Lesley University, within the School of Education. She received her Ph.D. in environmental biology from the University of Massachusetts, Boston, with an emphasis in community conservation and science education. In addition, as an INSPIRE Postdoctoral Researcher within the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University, she focused on sustainable engineering education. Her research looks to find ways of connecting science and engineering to issues surrounding students’ local community and natural environment, through the intersection of conservation (research) and education (application).

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Johannes Strobel Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Johannes Strobel is Director of INSPIRE, Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning, and Assistant Professor of engineering education and learning design and technology at Purdue University. NSF and several private foundations fund his research. His research and teaching focuses on policy of P-12 engineering, how to support teachers and students' academic achievements through engineering learning, the measurement and support of change of habits of mind, particularly in regards to sustainability and the use of cyber-infrastructure to sensitively and resourcefully provide access to and support learning of complexity.

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Conceptualizing Authenticity in Engineering Education: A Systematic Literature ReviewPurposeThe K-12 engineering community is in a unique position to explore different frameworks, notjust to decide what to teach (concepts, processes and competencies), but also to decide anddiscuss the governing principles of K-12 engineering standards and curricula. Currently,“authentic” experiences are widely used in the K-12 curriculum; however, there is no clearconceptualization of what authenticity entails, and some of these conceptualizations need to bethoroughly examined. The purpose of this study is to critically review current conceptualizationsof authenticity as principles to design curricula. Research questions are: (a) What are thedifferent conceptualizations of authenticity with their general features and attributes? (b) What isa framework of authenticity that encompasses these features and attributes? and (c) What areinitial recommendations for K-12 engineering education curriculum developers based on thesefindings?MethodologyThe methodological framework for this study is a systematic literature review guided by theNational Health Service (NHS) Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (CRD)1. Following theCRD guidelines of conducting a systematic literature review, we followed four major steps: (a)identifying key research terms, (b) selecting studies, (c) extracting/monitoring data, and (d) datasynthesis. Additionally, (e) validation/modification and (f) frequency analysis were used toevaluate the results from data synthesis.AnalysisSix search terms were identified and 36 key papers were studied to develop a rubric to identifycategories or types of authenticity in the literature. Papers specifically within engineeringeducation and general education with authenticity as the main focus were selected andresearched to extract definitions of authenticity. As a result, 59 descriptions and definitions of“authenticity” and “authentic experience” were extracted and incorporated into the rubric.Finally, a total pool of 1,058 references (journal articles, conference proceedings, and books)were collected, and each study was read and evaluated using the evaluation rubric, focusing onthe description of authenticity or authentic experience and the principles included (along with arating of the reviewer’s confidence in the findings).ResultsThe descriptions/definitions were categorized as “Context Authenticity,” “Task Authenticity,”“Impact Authenticity,” and “Personal/Value Authenticity” (Table 1 shows key definitions andcharacteristics for each type of authenticity). The common theme of all the different authenticitydefinitions is their relation to real-world experiences. Key factors were those which appearfrequently when educators/researchers discuss authenticity (Table 2 summarizes key factors).For the overall rubric, we selected a 5% sample to calculate inter-rater reliability using twoindependent raters; the percentage of agreement ranged from 88% to 100% for each categoryfollowing two rounds of discussion and minor modifications to the rubric. Finally, we conducteda frequency analysis of authenticity in engineering education, where the majority of work is seenin undergraduate education.ImplicationsImplications include the use of different types of authenticity to provide more appropriate andpromising principles for better design of engineering curricula and standards. Authenticity issituated in a long history of reform pedagogy and student-centered learning theories and wouldadditionally address the reported shortcomings of traditional classroom education and howexisting STEM curricula are positioned.Bibliography1. Centre of Reviews and Dissemination. (2001). Understanding systematic reviews of research on effectiveness. CRD Report 4 (2nd ed.). NHS CRD, York. Table 1. Key definitions and characteristics for each type of authenticity.Categories Key Definitions CharacteristicsALL in Real world (RW) relatedcommon Curriculum should… Curriculum should… 1. Be similar to the real-world work 1. Be a complete task- environment or future professional environment situations 2. Contain a suspension-of- 2. Resemble challenges or social disbelief processContext interactions in daily life 3. Be open in forming andAuthenticity 3. Bring real world experience to the solving the problem and classroom outcomes(What makes a 4. Be a situation similar to ‘in-the-wild’ 4. Be a complex problem-context 5. Make students control the process, gain solving context andauthentic?) hands-on experience, or apply study interdisciplinary context content in the real world* 5. Have situations of 6. Include everyday experiences and collaboration, access to tools students’ interest and professional target and resources, discretion and 7. Align school and professional outcomes ownership, or flexible use of time Curriculum should … Curriculum should… 1. Be of real world relevance and related 1. Contain ill-structured to the study problems, no pre-Task 2. Reflect and develop professional skills specificationsAuthenticity students need after graduation 2. Let students problematize the 3. Challenge students in decision-making subject matter**(What makes a in practical contexts 3. Contain open-ended creativetask authentic?) activity 4. Promote disciplined inquiry 5. Ask students to interpret ambiguous dataImpact Link curriculum to… Link curriculum to…Authenticity 1. Justification of actions in cultural 1. Professional community(What impacts practices standards in relative areacan an 2. Events and issues in society 2. Culture significanceauthentic 3. Participation as effective citizens in a 3. Minorities’ experiences in theexperience technology-based society role of engineers anddeliver out of 4. Impact of project is not exclusively only scientistsschool?) within the classroomPersonal/Value Let students… Let students …Authenticity 1. Produce knowledge with value in 1. Problematize the subject students’ lives and studies beyond matter**(What makes an simply proving their competence 2. Perceive relations betweenexperience 2. Experience everyday life and their the practices and the value ofauthentic on a interest and belief* thempersonal level?) 3. Include their professional target in the 3. Pursue personally relevant experience* goals and interests and have 4. Make a personal version of personal choice sociocultural practice, integrate personal4. Exercise creativity engaging interests and cultural values in personal construction of 5. Build community for learning and new knowledge communication 5. Defend their position in 6. Conduct self-exploration objective terms 7. Develop a sense of identity and sense of 6. Develop self-learning skills confidence benefiting them throughout lifeNote. * Overlap between Context key definition and Personal/Value key definition, **Overlapbetween Task characteristics and Personal/Value characteristics. Table 2. Factors of authenticity. 1. Promote disciplined inquiry 2. Real-world context/Future professional situation 3. Classroom-professional community balance 4. Personal interest, school goal and professional goal combination 5. Active self knowledge construction 6. Higher-ordering thinking 7. Self exploration 8. Interaction among learners 9. Openness/diversity of forming the problem, solving the problem, and outcomesFactors 10. Complete task-environments 11. Provide information/data that is from or mimics real-life or skills 12. Suspension of disbelief 13. Complex problem transcending the borders defined by disciplines 14. Ill-structured, non contrived problems with ambiguous data 15. Students’ interest, belief, and value 16. Decision-making in practical contexts 17. Value beyond school 18. Values defensible in objective terms

Wang, J., & Dyehouse, M., & Weber, N. R., & Strobel, J. (2012, June), Conceptualizing Authenticity in Engineering Education: A Systematic Literature Review Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21098

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