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Culturally Responsive Engineering Education: Creativity Through “Empowered to Change” in the U.S. and “Admonished to Preserve” in Japan

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Empathy and Human-centered Design 2

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Xiao Ge Stanford University Orcid 16x16

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I am a PhD candidate at Center for Design Research in Mechanical Engineering Department, Stanford University. Working with my primary advisor, Larry Leifer, I integrate approaches from engineering, design and psychology to investigate the contemporary team practice of multicultural design innovation and multicultural, interdisciplinary science innovation. Specifically, I investigate a psychological mechanism – perplexity - through which engineers thrive when their habitual mind clashes with the social realities. In addition, I test interventions to nudge engineers to reframe problematic schema-incongruent situations into unique opportunities for cognitive growth, creative performance, and effective teamwork. My work contributes to revealing the science behind multicultural, interdisciplinary technological collaboration and providing actionable guidance for building up the next-generation engineers.

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Daigo Misaki Kogakuin University

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Daigo Misaki is an Associate Professor at Department of Mechanical Systems Engineering, Kogakuin University.
Daigo got a Ph.D. in Engineering, Tokyo Metropolitan University. Daigo was a visiting Associate Professor at Center forDesign Research in Mechanical Engineering at Stanford.

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Nanami Furue Tokyo University of Science

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Nanami Furue received her Ph.D. degree from the Graduate School of Commerce and Management, Hitotsubashi University. She has been working as an Assistant Professor of the School of Management, Tokyo University of Science and teaches Product Planning and Design Thinking. She has conducted several research projects in the field of marketing, innovation and design. Her major research interest is comparison of idea generation and selection of new product development among different countries and occupations.

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Chunchen Xu

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Creativity is an indispensable part of many engineering courses. However, with flourishment of global collaboration in various engineering classrooms and best educational practices being replicated across cultures, there are not many curriculum interventions that are originated from students’ diverse cultural needs. When cultural differences are (unintentionally) ignored, students may get culturally biased grades and undergo psychologically difficult times. For instance, Japanese students coming to a U.S. university for a co-final presentation with their U.S. student partners may get ill-evaluated for a lack of articulation on how their ideas break through the status quo, which is considered desirable in Japan (preservation-orientation) but not so in the U.S. (change-orientation). This is problematic given that student evaluation is less based on traditional exams of fundamental science knowledge, but rather increasingly subjected to culturally-shaped subjective experience. The paper is centered around the idea that engineers are motivated by the cultural values with which they identify. In the U.S., the motivation to promote change is widely held to underpin the generation of new ideas and value creation. In contrast, preservation is perceived demanding but taken very seriously in Japan, and change from this perspective can be seen as an unconstrained, irresponsible mission that requires less effort. The paper empirically examines the cultural dimensions of creativity in engineering education, specifically how engineering students’ motivations for creative problem-solving are different in the U.S. than in Japan. A cross-cultural survey study was run to test the hypotheses that Japanese (U.S.) engineers are more (less) motivated to create new ideas when they are asked to preserve rather than change something. We will share the encouraging preliminary results and discuss implications. Engineers across different cultures have the capacity of both – create to change, and create to preserve. But different cultures emphasize different values. If engineering educators (and managers at organizations) of a certain sociocultural context celebrate their cultural values and restrict others, either consciously or not, this would put people with different values at disadvantage. With the salient power dynamics between educators (managers) and students (junior employees), this means alienation, misjudgment and disconnection. The paper underlies the importance for educators to learn about the different cultural forces behind different engineering behaviors. The research contributes to the cross-cultural literature of engineering education.

Ge, X., & Misaki, D., & Furue, N., & Xu, C. (2021, July), Culturally Responsive Engineering Education: Creativity Through “Empowered to Change” in the U.S. and “Admonished to Preserve” in Japan Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36887

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