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June 22, 2020
June 22, 2020
June 26, 2021
Educational Research and Methods
Developing Contextual Social Awareness in Engineering: Placing human diversity and social justice at the Center of the Engineering Process
Can a deeper understanding of human diversity improve engineering processes and outcomes? If so, can we teach these social dimensions within the timeframe of a course? A predominant focus on technical aspects in the teaching and learning of engineering coupled with cultural stereotypes of who can become an engineer leave many at the margins of the field rather than at the center of it. This research paper investigates how participation in the ENGR-Diversity course may build students’ awareness of social aspects in engineering. Through an examination of students’ design considerations, we provide empirical data to two research questions (1) To what extent do students consider social issues in design problems? (2) What are the changes, if any, in students’ social awareness after they participate in a course experience on culture, diversity, and equity in engineering communities?
Participants included 74 students at a university in California enrolled in the course during the 2019 winter quarter. Through a mixed-methods approach, we investigated how culture and diversity shape engineering work. Data sources included students’ responses to the Palo Alto Flooding Problem, an exercise inspired by the well-known Midwest Flooding Problem by Atman and colleagues. The problem was administered at the beginning (pretest) and end of the course (posttest).
The research team undertook analyses of overall responses, segments, and Contextual Social Awareness (CSA) segments. Through a two-tailed paired t-test of students’ responses and a two-way analysis of variance of groups’ change on CSA segments, we examine the extent to which students considered social issues in their responses and their changes in social awareness. Our findings suggest that engineers will consider the lived experiences of people and their communities in their work when they become aware of the role of broader societal issues in engineering, thereby opening up possibilities for more equitable solutions. Reported results suggest that students can change their design considerations about social issues in engineering within a short time frame.
The proposed binary Contextual Social Awareness (CSA) expands the scope and depth of the classic MWF framework. The CSA adds valuable insights for researchers and educators into the nature of responses. The most interesting insights of this work resulted from centering the user's voices by closely investigating the original quotes from students. This study is a further example that it is always worthwhile to invest time to deeply understand the participants, especially when it comes to engineering design.
Pérez, G., & Danner, P. M., & Gilmartin, S. K., & Muller, C. B., & Sheppard, S. (2020, June), Developing Contextual Social Awareness in Engineering: Placing Human Diversity and Social Justice at the Center of the Engineering Process Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34428
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