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Gender Inclusiveness In Engineering Education: Is Problem Based Learning Environment A Recipe?

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Climate Issues for Women Students

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.779.1 - 12.779.13



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Paper Authors

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Xiang-Yun Du Aalborg University

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Anette Kolmos Aalborg University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Gender Inclusiveness in Engineering Education - Is Problem Based Learning Environment a Recipe?


Based on two PhD studies on gender recruitment at an engineering univeristy in Denmark, this paper discusses whether and how a PBL environment have been functioning in the recruitment of engineering students. The research findings from both studies show that the PBL environment can be regarded as a learning environment that is friendly to students of both genders. However, it did not witness dramatic increase of women’s presence in the past twenty years. Both studies agreed that gender recruitment is not only based on pedagogic model. Therefore, this paper concludes that PBL environment itself is not enough to be used as a recipe for recruiting women to engineering studies. Gender inclusiveness in engineering education is more complex than just establishing a friendly learning environment, and it involves not only increasing the number of women, but also the content aspect towards more contextual learning.


The minority of women’s participation in engineering programs has been well reported and discussed in feminists’ works nearly all around the world. Previous studies have identified various historical reasons leading to this phenomenon. The mostly agreed factors in the history of different western countries include: 1) women’s inappropriate gender role, which keeps the ideology of femininity distant from technology and engineering [2, 6, 8, 18, 19, 22], 2) Gender stereotypes in labor division, which defines engineering as a male oriented profession [1, 3, 7, 11, 18], and 3) the traditional lecturer-based learning environment at engineering programs overweighs sophisticated natural science knowledge and hard core technological skills, which mainly favors male interest and expectations and ignore women’s experiences and concerns [4, 9, 24, 26, 29].

To different extents, these historical factors shape young people’s educational choices and result in gender disproportionality – men’s excessive participation in natural sciences, mathematics, and engineering and women’s high participation in arts, humanities, and social sciences [20,27]. Despite their academic qualifications and performance, girls and women markedly do not continue to study mathematics and natural science, and even lower proportions of women study engineering [22].

The past decades witnessed substantial feminist efforts in different western countries aiming at improving women’s representation in engineering study programs. One major assumption was that a friendly learning environment can be an option to recruit more women engineering students and promote gender equality in the study of engineering. It is suggested [10] that women’s learning is better supported in an environment that is different from those in traditional education and from those that support men’s learning. The ‘chilly climate’ in engineering classrooms has been identified as the major reason that leads to women’s inferior experiences to their male peers [9]. Through addressing some commonly identified issues for female students in male dominated courses, Lewis [21] elaborates what is required for technical education to be gender inclusive. She pointed out three aspects that have been neglected in the construction of science and engineering curriculum. They are respectively 1) the construction of the curriculum with the consideration of the students’ background

Du, X., & Kolmos, A. (2007, June), Gender Inclusiveness In Engineering Education: Is Problem Based Learning Environment A Recipe? Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2017

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