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Fostering Engineering Thinking in a Democratic Learning Space: A Classroom Application Pilot Study in the Azraq Refugee Camp, Jordan

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Seeking Resilience and Learning to Thrive Through Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Claudio Cesar Silva de Freitas Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Claudio holds Bachelor’s degree in Control Engineering at Higher Education Institute of Amazonia (2011), and he holds his Master's degree in Electrical Engineering from the State University of Campinas (2014). Currently, he is pursuing his Ph.D. at Purdue University in Engineering Education.
He has experience as a visiting graduate researcher at the University of New Mexico (USA) and professional experience at K&A Wireless as a research associate in Albuquerque (USA). Additionally, he has professional experience at Hitachi Automotive Systems America as an Intern in Research & Development in Detroit (USA) and Senior Product Engineer at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in Brazil. He served as the President of Student Platform for Engineering Education Development (SPEED). Before joining SPEED, Claudio served as co-founder of the Student Chapter of the Brazilian Automation Society. Among his many achievements, his project was awarded the Best Student Initiative for Engineering Students promoted by Cengage Learning. He received the Leadership Award by ISTEC, and the Young Scientist Award supported by International Society for Engineering Education (IGIP). His project with electrical vehicle at the Unicamp E-Racing team was awarded the first place at the national competition (Brazil) and international competition (USA), and he was selected in the Future Entrepreneurs Program promoted by Redemprendia.

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Zachary James Beyer Purdue University, West Lafayette

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I am an undergraduate working in the Engineering Education department at Purdue University through the UPRISE program.

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Hassan Ali Al Yagoub Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Hassan Al Yagoub is a Ph.D. student in Engineering Education and an Explorer fellow at Purdue University. His research interests include diversity & inclusion, international engineering education, advising and mentoring, students’ persistence, engineering career pathways, and school-to-work transition of new engineers.
He holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology.
Prior to beginning his doctoral studies, Hassan worked for five years at General Electric where he graduated from their Edison Engineering Development Program (EEDP) and then worked as a gas turbine fleet management engineer. In addition to his technical role, Hassan supported the recruiting, interview, and selection process of the EEDP Program, where he mentored interns, co-ops and Edison associates from the Middle East and Africa regions by developing and teaching a technical training curriculum, providing guidance for graduate school applications, and providing career consultation.

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Jennifer Deboer Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Jennifer DeBoer is currently Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her research focuses on international education systems, individual and social development, technology use and STEM learning, and educational environments for diverse learners.

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In recent years, there has been a call for education initiatives targeted to refugee camps. In 2017, Purdue University and the University of Geneva implemented an engineering course that responded to these concerns by empowering learners to not only address challenges in their communities but also develop engineering thinking. The pedagogical core of this course was grounded in the principles of a democratic learning space. The purpose of this work-in-progress is to describe our approach and illustrate artifacts from the pilot course. In doing so, we address three key objectives:

1. What aspects of the introductory engineering course (intended outcomes, assessments, and activities) were contextually aligned to opportunities and constraints in the Azraq refugee camp? 2. How did the introductory engineering course foster students’ social responsibility to the local community of Azraq? 3. In what ways can the final course outcomes be aligned with social responsibility?

Azraq hosts the second largest camp community of refugees in Jordan, representing a total of 53,833 people of concern originally from Syria. As the conflict in Syria has continued, the size of the Syrian population forced into refugee conditions has increased. The United Nations called for immediate action to assist people in Syria, considering the fact that over half the country’s population have fled their homes, and 4.8 million people are refugees in the region and beyond [1]. Given this ongoing crisis, we designed the course to enable learners to learn technical engineering skills and provide access to higher education by awarding academic credits at the end of the program. We used a combination of remote and local staff as facilitators in addition to technology tools for online and active learning. The overall structure of our course is set up as an active, blended, collaborative, and democratic learning space.

In light of the unique educational context, we describe in this paper our course design process, and then we explore student artifacts, interviews, observations, and surveys to answer our three objectives. In doing so, we believe this research and application example can contribute to the literature by understanding an implemented course structure and the development of students’ technical and non-technical skills, sense of community, social responsibility, and sense of independence in refugee settings.

This paper is structured as follows. First, we present the overall motivation prior literature about educational initiatives addressed to refugee contexts. Next, we describe our course context and teaching and learning strategies we adopted. We then address our research objectives by linking each research goal to our findings regarding content, assessment, and pedagogy. Finally, we present our discussion and future work related to future courses and implications from this pilot study.

Freitas, C. C. S. D., & Beyer, Z. J., & Al Yagoub, H. A., & Deboer, J. (2018, June), Fostering Engineering Thinking in a Democratic Learning Space: A Classroom Application Pilot Study in the Azraq Refugee Camp, Jordan Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30535

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