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Defining Engineering and Technological Literacies within the Framework of Liberal Education: Implications for the Curriculum

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

The Philosophy of Engineering and Technological Literacy

Tagged Division

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.356.1 - 24.356.18



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Paper Authors


John Heywood Trinity College Dublin

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John Heywood MA MSc LittD (Dublin) M.Litt (Lanacaster).
Professorial Fellow Emeritus of Trinity College – The University of Dublin and formerly Professor and Director of Teacher Education in the University (1977 – 1996).

In addition to a higher doctorate he is the holder of a Masters degree in engineering education (MSc). He is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, a Fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education, a Senior Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute, and a Licentiate and Fellow of the College of Preceptors.

His major studies are co-authored book “Analysing Jobs” about what engineers do at work; three editions of “Assessment in Higher Education” ; “Learning, Adaptability and Change; the Challenge for Education and Industry” and the American educational research award winning “Engineering Education: Research and Development in Curriculum and Instruction” published by IEEE/Wiley. He is a recipient of a Science, Education and Technology Division Premium of the London IEE for his contribution to engineering education.

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This paper develops a discussion begun in earlier papers between 2010 and 2012 by members of theTechnological Literacy Division of ASEE. Technological literacy is a muddled concept for which reasonmembers of the Technological Literacy Division led by John Krupczak have found it necessary to distinguishbetween two literacies- engineering and technological [1]. Accompanying this work, Mani Mina and others havealso established a framework for the design and implementation of minor courses for the development ofengineering and technological literacy among non-engineers [2]. It follows immediately from the argument thatif engineering is necessarily a component of liberal education, and that if it is used as the focal point of aprogram of integrated study, the barriers that have been erected between liberal education and vocationaleducation break down [3].The first intention of this paper is to argue that the pursuit of technological literacy necessarily involves thepursuit of engineering literacy. Secondly, it demonstrates a model of technological literacy in which the twoliteracies are conflated. It is shown that the capabilities required by the model would also meet the requirementsof such groups of employers as those who responded to the report from the Minnesota Office of HigherEducation [3]. The third intention is to argue that reconciliation between the two literacies is more easilyaccomplished if new curriculum structures can be embraced. While it is understood that particular notions ofcurriculum structure are deeply embedded in a culture, it is argued that this embededness prevents a culturefrom reflecting on how it should respond to the explosion in knowledge that has occurred in the last century.This requires thinking outside the box about alternative curriculum structures.A model curriculum for a college engineering and technological literacy program is described. Its framework isderived from elements of an experimental program in technology education designed for the transition year ofIrish post-primary education. It was based on Whitehead’s theory of rhythm in learning. Following a briefintroduction the paper begins with a discussion of the differences between engineering and technologicalliteracy

Heywood, J. (2014, June), Defining Engineering and Technological Literacies within the Framework of Liberal Education: Implications for the Curriculum Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20247

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