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Contemplative Practices as a Way of Creating Inclusive Environments in Engineering Education: A Story of One Physics Foundation Experience for Engineers

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Conference

2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Creating a Supportive and Nurturing Academic Culture

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

14

DOI

10.18260/1-2--34329

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/34329

Download Count

118

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Paper Authors

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Madhvi Jayalakshmi Venkatesh Harvard Medical School; Prakriti Dance; Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-7914-1997

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Madhvi J. Venkatesh, Ph.D., is an educator, researcher, and dancer who is interested in how the skills and practices of different disciplines are interrelated and can be intertwined to cultivate holistic learning and wellness. She is a Co-Founder and Director of Education and Outreach at Prakriti Dance and currently holds appointments as a Lecturer and Associate Director of Graduate Education in the Department of Biological Chemistry and Molecular Pharmacology at Harvard Medical School and as a Visiting Scholar-in-Residence at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. At Harvard Medical School, Dr. Venkatesh works with faculty on improving the first-year PhD courses in molecular biology and biochemistry, trains teaching assistants, expands programming to build community among graduate students, and researches the best ways to train and assess PhD students in skills such as experimental design and science communication. Her other work includes contributing to dance performances that raise awareness about the human impacts on marine life and designing and researching a physics foundation course for engineers that embeds contemplative practices. All of Dr. Venkatesh's efforts are united by the goals of of enhancing engagement, inclusion, and personal/professional growth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.

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Yevgeniya V. Zastavker Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

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Yevgeniya V. Zastavker, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Physics at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering and a recent Director of the Research Institute for Experiential Learning Science at Northeastern University. She earned her B.S. degree in Physics from Yale University in 1995 and her Ph. D. degree in Biological Physics from MIT in 2001. Dr. Zastavker's research interests lie in the field of STEM education with specific emphasis on innovative pedagogical and curricular practices at the intersection with the issues of gender and diversity. With the goal of improving learning opportunities for all students and equipping faculty with the knowledge and skills necessary to create such opportunities, Dr. Zastavker's recent work involves questions pertaining to students’ motivational attitudes and their learning journeys in a variety of educational environments. One of the founding faculty at Olin College, Dr. Zastavker has been engaged in development and implementation of project-based experiences in fields ranging from science to engineering and design to social sciences (e.g., Critical Reflective Writing; Teaching and Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering, etc.) All of these activities share a common goal of creating curricular and pedagogical structures as well as academic cultures that facilitate students' interests, motivation, and desire to persist in engineering. Through this work, outreach, and involvement in the community, Dr. Zastavker continues to focus on the issues of women and minorities in science/engineering.

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biography

Eleanor Berke Boston Public Schools

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Berke is interested in the ways that role play may cause the body to shift the mind building, empathy and perspective. She has used acting as a tool to cultivate empathy for the immigrant experience, to improve the bedside manner of new doctors and to help build a dialogue around consent and sexual assault. She attended the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute (NYC), HB Studios (NYC) and holds a Masters of the Arts in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE). She has created dynamic theatre-based programming at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and continues to act professionally, while teaching ESL full-time. Berke presented on her use of theatre-integrated language instruction at the International Colloquium on Languages, Culture, Identity in Schools and Society in Soria, Spain in 2019 and has led trainings for ESL teachers in the Boston Public Schools. She was a 2018 Manton Fellow at the Lincoln Center Summer Forum, focusing on integrating performing and visual art into elementary curriculum. In our current trying times, she is producing new plays through Zoom and co-hosting a weekly comedy show on Socially Distant Improv (Instagram Live).

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Jimena Bermejo

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Jimena is a as a movement artist who has moved away from the classical “rehearse-to-perform” paradigm of her dance training to include imperfections, to break the separation between audience and performer. She uses movement, text, and performance actions to experiment with this closeness. Her recent experimentation with technology such as live feed video allowed her to bring in other aspects of performance into her craft, which now also includes collaborations with other artists including musicians and other artists to challenge her own ideas and movement vocabulary. Jimena uses her own experiences, good and bad, including issues of race, trauma, growing up in Mexico in a family of artists, etc. to mirror and raise awareness to the world around us by observing and gauging art participants’ responses and then using art to show the absurdity of some of the behaviors, stereotypes, and relationships in society.

Jimena Bermejo holds an MFA from Massachusetts College of Art and Design's Studio for Interrelated Media and a BFA in Dance from The Boston Conservatory. Most recently, she has shown her work at The Cathedral Arts Festival in Belfast, U. K, The Judson Church in NYC, Montserrat College of Art Gallery, Distillery Gallery in South Boston, Le Lieu in Quebec, 808 Gallery in Boston, Mobius Gallery, Green Street Studios and The Dance Complex in Cambridge. Jimena is currently a member of Mobius Artists Group performed with many other local choreographers. She is Director of the Dance Program at The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester and is currently faculty at Berklee College of Music, and The Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

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David Freeman Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

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I am a student who is motivated by love, justice, and honesty. While I currently attend Olin College of Engineering in eastern Massachusetts, my home is in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and it is from Arkansas that I will be streaming into the 2020 ASEE Virtual Conference. My heart pulls me more toward music and relationship than it does toward engineering but here I am; it'll all work out.

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Abigail M. Fry

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Abby Fry is a third-year student at Olin College of Engineering majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

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Alex L. Hindelang

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Abstract

This Work-in-Progress paper describes a collaboration that aims to integrate art, teaching, learning, research and activist work through the union of four instructors, three undergraduate teaching assistants, and their seven unique ways of knowing that are grounded in our differences - ethnicity, cultures of origin, first language, education, artistic craft, age, class, gender, wisdom traditions. We bring our differences to co-create a new educational paradigm for the students at a small engineering college by extending Belenke et al. (1986) framework of “silence, received knowledge, subjective knowledge, procedural knowledge, and constructed knowledge” to include embodied and other ways of knowing. Through this framework of more inclusive ways of knowing, we create learning opportunities for all students, particularly those underprivileged by current Western, male-centric pedagogical practices that divorce body from mind and experience from knowledge. By removing these dualisms through and within the learning experience we co-create, we work with our students to “render science more accessible to [everyone and particularly to] women and underprivileged communities, [and] also help cultivate citizenry for action and change” (Wilcox, 2009). More specifically, we create an educational scaffolding for a new Physics Foundation offering that aims to develop learners’ capacity for deeper self-awareness and reflection as well as engages them in (1) considerations of interdisciplinary perspectives that transcend the boundaries between science, engineering, mathematics, liberal arts, and humanities; (2) growth to become more aware of applications of physics/science to collective and individual human experience; (3) development of sense-making of human experiences as embodied beings in the physical universe (Krusberg & Ward, 2018); (4) reflection on themselves as learners with their unique ways of knowing; (5) development of skills for open-ended learning environments, including life-long learning, communication, and teamwork.

To achieve these goals, we use contemplative practices (e.g., sensory meditation and visualization, deep listening, beholding, contemplative movement, and critical reflection) to co-create science through constructed and embodied ways of knowing, thereby shifting learners’ perception of what is known, how it is known, by whom, and with what tools. For example, as students participate in iterative kinesthetic model-building, they “can start to understand more viscerally what the structures are, and how some models are more robust than others” (Grabel et al, 2017).

Our work combines areas of interdisciplinary exploration in education that have, to our knowledge, previously remained isolated from one another; these areas include embodying science/physics concepts, using embodiment as a form of research and inquiry, and utilizing contemplative practices in higher education. As this experiment is ongoing at the time of this abstract, our research program is at its early stages. The data sources for this study include classroom observations, students’ weekly reflective assignments, and post-experience interviews. Using grounded theory as the main driving mechanism for analyzing qualitative data, we hope to shed light on how this learning environment creates learning opportunities for all students in all their diverse ways of being and knowing as well as whether and how achievement of the goals above is possible through this unique learning environment.

Venkatesh, M. J., & Zastavker, Y. V., & Berke, E., & Bermejo, J., & Freeman, D., & Fry, A. M., & Hindelang, A. L. (2020, June), Contemplative Practices as a Way of Creating Inclusive Environments in Engineering Education: A Story of One Physics Foundation Experience for Engineers Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34329

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