New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
Undergraduate engineering students are commonly afforded minimal opportunities to choose their courses as compared to their non-engineering peers on campus. In addition, many engineering programs restrict students’ limited curricular choices to courses that are heavily skewed to be technical in nature, further limiting students’ ability to realize a broad and balanced college education. This study extends the work of understanding course choice opportunity in engineering education by exploring the opportunities that students in U.S. News & World Report top-ranked and ABET-accredited engineering programs are afforded to choose their technical versus non-technical courses. Coursework for each of 103 programs across chemical, civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering disciplines was characterized as technical (engineering, math and natural science) or non-technical using the 2013-14 online university catalog. The programs commonly afforded students the opportunity to choose the bulk of their (limited) non-technical coursework—a median of 88%—compared to 27% of their required technical courses. Though some choice is necessary to satisfy students’ innate psychological need for autonomy, too much choice is detrimental, and providing choice in a balanced manner is essential. More work is needed to better understand the optimal integration of psychologically gratifying course choice opportunity into engineering degree programs, including the psychological implications of the comparative rigidity and prescription that students encounter in their engineering, math, and natural science course selections, and comparative sovereignty over their non-technical courses.
Forbes, M. H., & Bielefeldt, A. R., & Sullivan, J. F. (2016, June), Implicit Bias? Disparity in Opportunities to Select Technical versus Non-Technical Courses in Undergraduate Engineering Programs Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25598
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