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Epistemological Foundations of Global Competencies: A New Theory to Advance Research on Global Competencies

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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

International Division Technical Session 5

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Page Count


Page Numbers

26.680.1 - 26.680.10



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Paper Authors


Kacey D Beddoes Oregon State University

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Kacey Beddoes is a Research Associate in the School of Civil and Construction Engineering at Oregon State University. She received her PhD in Science and Technology Studies (STS) from Virginia Tech, along with graduate certificates in Women’s and Gender Studies and Engineering Education. She serves as Managing Editor of Engineering Studies and Assistant Editor of the Global Engineering Series at Morgan & Claypool Publishers. Her current research interests include gender in engineering education research, interdisciplinarity, peer review, engineers’ epistemologies, and global engineering education.

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Devlin Montfort Oregon State University


Shane A. Brown P.E. Oregon State University Orcid 16x16

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Shane Brown is an associate professor in the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University. His research interests include conceptual change and situated cognition. He received the NSF CAREER award in 2010 and is working on a study to characterize practicing engineers’ understandings of core engineering concepts.

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Epistemological Foundations of Global CompetenciesHistorians and sociologists of engineering have shown that engineering has been – and continuesto be – practiced differently across different countries. Indeed one definition of “globalcompetency” for engineers is the “ability to work with those who define and solve problemsdifferently.” Thus, it is not only cultures that differ, but also engineering content and practicesthat differ across time and space. Global competency therefore requires understanding thatengineers in other countries have different knowledge, which in turn requires an epistemologythat accommodates sophisticated knowledge beliefs. Epistemologies also vary with nationalcultures, and part of being able to understand one’s own knowledge is understanding that othershave different epistemological beliefs.The aim of this paper is to demonstrate that personal epistemologies, which are an underexploredfacet of global competencies, may be useful in understanding and predicting global worksuccesses or readiness. One central goal is to introduce the concept of personal epistemology,which is not yet commonly engaged in engineering education. We begin by summarizingattempts to define or operationalize global competency, we then give an overview of the conceptof personal epistemology and identify relationships between global competency and personalepistemology. Following that we describe our study design before presenting preliminaryfindings on how our personal epistemology research is related to global competency. The paperconcludes by explaining how our work addresses limitations of current scholarship on globalcompetency and describing our future work.To accomplish the aims of this paper, we present findings that emerged from an existing in-depthdataset on the development of students’ and engineers’ personal epistemologies. Data for thispaper come from qualitative interviews with engineering students and practicing engineers fromthe United States. When the study began in 2011, participants were civil engineering students intheir sophomore year and civil engineering graduates beginning new jobs. Interviews focused ondevelopment of personal epistemologies from the sophomore year of college through the secondyear of engineering practice.We identified three ways in which the construct of personal epistemology is related to globalcompetency, as well as three avenues for future research that can provide empirical,theoretically-grounded findings on attributes and experiences related to global technical work.Understanding engineers’ personal epistemologies could provide new insight into how toimprove and prepare for international work experiences.This paper suggests that personal epistemologies, which are an underexplored facet of globalcompetencies, may be useful in understanding and predicting global work successes or readinessin several ways. Personal epistemologies are a foundational way to approach global competencyand could provide new insights into challenges experienced with developing globalcompetencies.  

Beddoes, K. D., & Montfort, D., & Brown, S. A. (2015, June), Epistemological Foundations of Global Competencies: A New Theory to Advance Research on Global Competencies Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24017

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