Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
The challenge of increasing diversity in engineering is usually framed as a problem of representation with solutions and interventions aimed at increasing the numbers of underrepresented groups. For example, the NSF funds programmatic interventions that attempt to increase demographic representation to an “equitable” level. A skeptical assessment of interventions of this sort is that they are really about enriching the experiences of already privileged participants in the nation’s engineering schools by exposing them to alternative perspectives. On the face of it, this is an important and laudable development. Exposures to alternative perspectives for the engineer are valuable in and of themselves. However, if interventions that address the diversity problem are limited to increasing the numbers of underrepresented groups without simultaneously creating the intellectual and institutional spaces that allow for the expression of multiple viewpoints and perspectives, we run the risk of limiting, and possibly closing down the very thing we are trying to encourage. This paper presents a range of approaches and frameworks, rooted in the field of science, technology & society (STS), that explore and sustain diverse intellectual and institutional spaces that allow engineering students to individually and collectively explore and experience multiple dimensions of diversity in engineering pedagogy and practice.
We argue that creating these dimensions of diversity is an essential aspect of building truly diverse environments that encourage all students to find opportunities to question the status quo and express themselves. Drawing upon insights from institutional experiments and classroom experiences from several faculty in an interdisciplinary engineering program, we reflexively take up the project of redefining complex socio-technical systems (or wicked problems) by reframing them from multiple viewpoints. It is the position of the authors that pursuing diversity in all its dimensions requires boundary crossing that confronts the traditional organization of departments built upon disciplinary egocentrism while challenging reductionist approaches to problem definitions and technical fixes. The paper addresses examples such as the coupling and reordering of the physical arrangements of furniture in classrooms and office environments, and the practices of contemplation that can support (or suppress) inclusivity. We explore efforts to re-constitute a course through deliberative democratic processes that offer students a voice in understanding their own experiences as learners and co-constructors of the learning environment. Such efforts also extend to exploring alternative ways of knowledge making and their relation to engineering practice and pedagogy. These approaches offer a physical and philosophical reorientation toward self-reflection, recognition of otherness, and engagement with a plurality of perspectives for dealing with and thriving in diverse environments.
A central theme in our paper is the question of who generates and orders knowledge. For example, we explore laboratory observations and interviews that identify undergraduates as key, but often invisible, contributors to knowledge-generating processes within engineering schools. Our goal is to open a conversation on how diversity extends beyond the numbers of students and faculty with various racial, ethnic, gender, and cultural identities to the institutional, sociocultural, and material realities that shape our experiences.
Odumosu, T., & Ferguson, S., & Foley, R. W., & Neeley, K. A., & Wylie, C. D., & Ku, S. T., & Berne, R. W. (2018, June), Dimensions of Diversity in Engineering: What We Can Learn from STS Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30336
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