June 24, 2007
June 24, 2007
June 27, 2007
Educational Research and Methods
12.420.1 - 12.420.16
Creative, Contextual and Engaged: Are Women the Engineers of 2020?
This paper discusses findings from a multi-institutional longitudinal study of the engineering student experience. Data from multiple research methods are discussed regarding qualitative differences in contextual awareness and student engagement of engineering students, concentrating on the differences between men and women enrolled as engineering students at four institutions. Data from this study suggest that women are more contextually aware and highly engaged than men, and that women may have certain attributes that fulfill both the criteria for Engineer of 2020 and current ABET accreditation standards. The authors argue that providing opportunities to foster contextual awareness and student engagement should result in greater satisfaction for all students.
Educators, professionals and policy-makers alike recognize that contemporary engineering must be studied and practiced in context. The National Academy of Engineering (NAE) envisions an “Engineer of 2020” who demonstrates “dynamism, agility, resilience, and flexibility” to design for an uncertain and rapidly changing world.1 Contextual conditions like a fragile global economy, increased mobility of jobs and workers, rapid development of information and communication technologies, growing calls for social responsibility,2 and rising complexity of engineered products3 all warrant engineering students’ development of skills with which to situate their technical work. Furthermore, the increasingly diverse engineering workforce and marketplace require “cultural competence”; that is, a willingness and ability to consider culture in engineering problem-solving.4 This growing recognition of the need for contextual awareness makes the ABET learning outcomes that speak to context particularly relevant. Among ABET’s technical and professional learning outcomes are both the ability to design within realistic contextual constraints and an understanding of the impact of engineering solutions within a global and societal context.5
Research has demonstrated that when given the opportunity to learn in context (e.g. through service learning projects or study abroad), students become better engineering problem-solvers with better communication skills and improved abilities to work with diverse people.2 Well- designed project-based learning (PBL) that provides students the opportunity to apply abstract concepts to hands-on activities in context not only leads to knowledge acquisition, but also has been shown to increase engineering-student retention rates.3 Additionally, other behaviors indicate that students are operating contextually while in college. The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) annually surveys college students “to assess the extent to which they engage in educational practices associated with high levels of learning and development.”6 Distinguishing between what Boyer7 once termed “competence” and “commitment,” the NSSE shifts the focus from outcomes measurement to examining the ways in which students are engaged in “educationally purposeful activities,” including activities that complement and contextualize their academic coursework.
Kilgore, D., & Chachra, D., & Loshbaugh, H., & McCain, J., & Jones, M., & Yasuhara, K. (2007, June), Creative, Contextual, And Engaged: Are Women The Engineers Of 2020? Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2324
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