New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Design in Engineering Education
BACKGROUND Research studies have shown the value of communities of practice to the workplace (Lave and Wenger, 1981) and the larger importance of community to civic engagement (Putnam, 2000). Current literature also suggests that tomorrow’s engineers, and everyone in the workplace, will need to function effectively on multidisciplinary teams, be proficient communicators in an increasingly complex world, and think creatively and critically (e.g. Galloway, 2007). This helps explain why our university sees design as a hallmark of education for everyone, and also, like many universities, emphasizes the importance of developing a diverse and fully inclusive community.
RESEARCH QUESTIONS As faculty in design education, we wonder whether interdisciplinary design opportunities can help students work across academic silos and feel connected to a larger community. Currently, our school requires first-year engineers to take a project-based, interdisciplinary design course; offers a design certificate program to all interested undergraduate students; and recently developed a design course specifically for non-engineers. In addition, our Design for America (DFA) chapter attracts students from across the university and is growing steadily. Do these cross-school design initiatives help prepare students to be effective problem solvers in their careers? Do they promote campus community and student well-being? Should they be expanded? Building on previous research (Del Torto, et al., 2015), this paper (a work in progress) reports on our current efforts to answer these questions.
METHODS We interviewed five design faculty about the intended benefits of two interdisciplinary programs, and sent surveys to 160 alumni of the certificate program and to 95 students/alumni in DFA. Surveys asked about benefits of the programs, preparation for the workplace, and effect on perceptions of community. Thirty-five alumni of the certificate program have responded (21 males, 14 females), and five have been interviewed. DFA surveys were mailed this fall and responses are just arriving.
PRELIMINARY FINDINGS On the one hand, quantitative and qualitative analysis suggest that the interdisciplinary undergraduate design programs are reaching their goals and fostering diversity. The certificate program has grown from one engineering student in 2004 to 32 students from 18 majors in 4 schools in 2013-14. A recent project team included students from manufacturing engineering, biomedical engineering, applied math, and Asian studies. This interdisciplinary composition encourages students to look at challenges and solutions from multiple perspectives and see the value of diversity for problem-solving. On the other hand, interviews suggest the effect of these experiences on perceived connection to campus community as a whole is minimal. Rather, comments support previous research about students prioritizing smaller aggregates (e.g. clubs, residence halls) that satisfy their need for community (Del Torto, et al., 2015).
NEXT STEPS More research is needed to better understand whether interdisciplinary design programs can support university efforts to encourage creativity through “design thinking for all” while simultaneously creating greater student satisfaction and more social capital. Toward this end, we will be analyzing more survey responses and conducting additional interviews with alumni, faculty, and employers.
REFERENCES Del Torto, L., Hirsch, P., Contreras, X., Harty, T., & Mueller, B., (April 18, 2015). "Students' Insights about Community on Campus: Definitions, Expectations, and Perceptions.” American Educational Research Association (AERA) Annual Meeting. Chicago, IL. Galloway, P. (2007). The 21st-Century engineer: A proposal for engineering education reform. Reston, VA: ASCE Press. Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP. Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Del Torto, L. M., & Ankenman, B., & Benjamin, S., & Harty, T., & Hirsch, P. L. (2016, June), Exploring Interdisciplinary Design in Relation to Workplace Success and Campus Community Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26849
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