June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
24.542.1 - 24.542.27
Ethnography in Engineering Ethics Education: A Pedagogy for Transformational ListeningIn the engineering literature, listening is increasingly embraced as an essentialprofessional skill. Calls for listening appear in official guidelines for improvedcompetencies among engineers of the 21st century, as well as in writings advocating“human-centered” design, culturally-appropriate initiatives, and the promotion of socialand environmental justice. Despite the value placed on listening, its instruction inengineering education is rare.This paper extends the importance of listening to all areas of engineering research andpractice. It proposes that listening to the diverse voices of communities affected byengineering decisions, discoveries, and products is crucial for research integrity andmorally sound applications of engineering expertise. More importantly, it contends thatlistening can facilitate transformational engagement between engineers and the public bya) challenging stereotypes on both sides, b) foregrounding the technical and moralrelevance of diverse knowledges, c) exposing power relations between engineering,industry, and the state, and d) replacing conventional relationships of inequality anddistrust with partnerships that generate meaningful and effective innovations andsolutions.The pedagogy for transformational listening this paper features lies at the heart of aNational Science Foundation (NSF)-funded graduate engineering ethics course and willinform an online teaching module. The goal is for students to experience the cognitiveleap that trained listening can facilitate – moving from a stance of ignorance, confusion,and even outright disagreement concerning an unfamiliar position, to a stance of clarityand appreciation for reasoning that can underlie marginalized or misunderstoodperspectives. Three exercises are used, the first two as preparation for the third. Eachbuilds on the previous and increases in complexity and involvement. Exercise 1 draws onstudents’ personal experiences to delineate what effective listening looks and feels like,both for speakers and listeners. Exercise 2 centers on an ethnographic interview of afriend/relative who holds a belief or engages in a practice the student disapproves.Exercise 3, the apex of the training, requires sustained research of an unfoldingengineering controversy. It culminates in an ethnographic interview of a publicstakeholder whose voice is under- or misrepresented in official depictions of the case.To illustrate the method, the paper will focus on a partnership between the class and agrassroots environmental health organization, forged to bring together students andcommunity members fighting a highly publicized case of environmental contamination.The exercise involved extensive student research of the case, one classroom visit fromstaff and members of the organization, and one-on-one student interviews with localstakeholders. Learning outcomes included a) first-hand appreciation of the technical andmoral value of marginalized voices (expert and non-expert alike), b) new understandingsof the case from knowledge, data, and experiences excluded from the official record, andc) reassessment of engineering “best practices” from public perspectives. Strengths andlimitations of the approach will be explored through six lenses: that of the courseinstructor, two graduate students, and the director and two members of the partneringorganization.In closing, the paper will discuss the potential of this pedagogy to transform therelationship between engineers and the public, and thus support morally-sound generationand application of engineering knowledge.
Lambrinidou, Y., & Rhoads, W. J., & Roy, S., & Heaney, E., & Ratajczak, G. A., & Ratajczak, J. H. (2014, June), Ethnography in Engineering Ethics Education: A Pedagogy for Transformational Listening Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20433
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