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Engineering, Society, and the Environment in the Teaching Goals and Practices of Engineering Instructors

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Diffusion and Adoption of Teaching Practices

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.650.1 - 26.650.25



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Paper Authors


Lisa Romkey University of Toronto

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Lisa Romkey serves as Senior Lecturer, Curriculum, Teaching and Learning with the Division of Engineering Science at the University of Toronto. In this position, Lisa plays a central role in the evaluation, design and delivery of a dynamic and complex curriculum, while facilitating the development and implementation of various teaching and learning initiatives.

Lisa is cross-appointed with the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at OISE/UT, and teaches undergraduate courses in engineering & society, and graduate courses in engineering education. Lisa completed an Undergraduate Degree in Environmental Science at the University of Guelph, and a Master’s Degree in Curriculum Studies at the University of Toronto. Her current doctoral research focuses on teaching and learning in engineering with an emphasis on the teaching of STSE (Science, Technology, Society and the Environment). She has also conducted research on science teacher education, the first year university experience, the assessment of undergraduate research experiences, peer teaching and gender issues in science and engineering.

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Engineering Teaching Goals and Practices and STSE (Science, Technology, Society & the Environment) StudiesEngineering undergraduate programs are expected to consider the impact of engineering’s workon society and the environment, explore the relationships between technology and society, andencourage students and graduates to engage in citizenship and action – defining characteristicsof STSE (Science, Technology, Society and the Environment) education. STSE, which exploresthe interface between science, technology, society and the environment, is a well-establishededucational movement that has developed over the last 40 years in science education, primarilyin elementary and secondary schools. The goal of this research was to explore instructor teachinggoals and practices, and more specifically their goals and practices related to the use of science,technology, society and the environment perspectives in their own teaching of undergraduateengineering students.An online survey, designed with input from engineering instructors to provide a broad overviewof STSE in the context of engineering, was deployed to instructors at four universities in Canada.The survey included: 1) demographic questions; 2) questions seeking information about generalteaching & learning goals and activities; and 3) questions designed quasi-deductively to exploreinstructors’ views and practices with respect to a number of STSE-related activities andapproaches, using the 6 STSE “Currents” proposed by Pedretti and Nazir.Following the survey, 12 instructors who had completed the survey were interviewed, to helpprovide a deeper understanding of instructor goals and practices related to their teaching, and therelationship between their goals and practices and STSE. This allowed for a more induction-oriented, naturalistic approach to exploring the research questions. Instructors were asked abouttheir teaching philosophy and general goals and practices, their perception of the importance ofexamining the relationship between engineering, society and the environment, their practicesrelated to STSE, and their perception of the STSE Currents, as they apply to engineering. Theinterviews also included questions about the challenges or barriers to implementing STSE, andenabling factors. Finally, instructors were asked their evaluation of the learning outcomesemployers and graduate schools were interested in.The quantitative questions on the survey (N=180) were analyzed using descriptive statistics,while the qualitative questions on the survey, and the interviews, were analyzed using thematicanalysis. Key findings include: 1) Instructors in the study hold a diverse set of teaching goalsand practices, falling under the general categories of subject matter transmission, engineeringskills and tools, and making connections between the subject matter and other courses, real-world applications and societal needs; 2) Instructors in the study believe STSE is relevant to theengineering curriculum, although there is significant variance in the different components ofSTSE and beliefs vs. practices; and 3) Challenges and enabling factors are significant, andsimilar to those found in the K-12 teaching community. 

Romkey, L. (2015, June), Engineering, Society, and the Environment in the Teaching Goals and Practices of Engineering Instructors Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23988

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