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Intelligence and Smartness in Engineering: Gatekeepers to Diversity and Inclusion

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2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity


Crystal City, Virginia

Publication Date

April 14, 2019

Start Date

April 14, 2019

End Date

April 22, 2019

Conference Session

Track Special Topic: Intelligence Technical Session 14

Tagged Topics

Diversity and Special Topic: Intelligence

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Paper Authors


Turhan Kendall Carroll Ohio State University

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Turhan Carroll is currently a graduate research associate in the engineering education department at The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH. He received BS degrees in Physics and Applied Mathematics from North Carolina State University. He also worked for approximately 7 years as an engineer performing research in magneto-photonics. His research interests now focus access and persistence of underrepresented minority student, and low socio-economic status students in engineering.

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Amy Kramer P.E. Ohio State University

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Amy Kramer is a graduate student and research associate at The Ohio State University in the Engineering Education Department. She earned a B.S. and M.S. in Civil Engineering from The Ohio State University in 2010 and 2013, respectively. Most recently she worked as a structural engineering consultant in Columbus, OH where she specialized in the design of reinforced concrete and steel structures for industrial bulk material handling and storage facilities. Her current research interests in Engineering Education include engineering identity, beliefs about smartness, diversity and inclusion, and engineering culture.

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Emily Dringenberg Ohio State University

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Dr. Dringenberg is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Ohio State University. She holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering (Kansas State '08), a M.S. in Industrial Engineering (Purdue '14) and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education (Purdue ’15). Her team, Beliefs in Engineering Research Group (BERG), utilizes qualitative methods to explore beliefs in engineering. Her research has an overarching goal of leveraging engineering education research to shift the culture of engineering to be more realistic and inclusive. Dr. Dringenberg is also interested in neuroscience, growth mindset, engineering ethics, and race and gender in engineering. In general, she is always excited to learn new things and work with motivated individuals from diverse backgrounds to improve the experiences of people at any level in engineering education.

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The ideas of intelligence and smartness are woven into all levels of engineering education. The individuals who are 1) accepted to study engineering, and 2) persist to practice engineering are broadly recognized as smart. In Western contexts, intelligence is often believed to be a person’s innate and analytical ability, which can be measured by an instrument such as an IQ test and is reflected in grades or standardized assessments. Smartness, on the other hand, is an implicit classification based on collective values, which are co-constructed within a local context. However, these cultural constructions of intelligence and smartness are limited and often lead to negative implications for those who don’t fit the prototypical mold of an engineer (i.e. white, male, and middle class). In this paper we seek to start a conversation about how the construction of intelligence and smartness can act as gatekeepers to diversity in engineering. Further, we aim to discuss the role that we as engineering educators play in the construction of smartness in engineering classrooms. To do so, we synthesize literature related to the construct of intelligence including a brief overview of the history of intelligence, examples of how intelligence has been used as a tool to systematically marginalize the less powerful, and a discussion on the cultural construction of intelligence. We then introduce the idea of smartness, using literature to discuss this construct. We include a synthesis of how smartness has been defined in literature and consequences of smartness in classrooms. We then discuss the implications of intelligence and smartness in classrooms for minority groups in engineering as a result of unexamined normative beliefs that often perpetuate stereotypes. We hope to encourage those in academic and non-academic settings to think critically about how their views of intelligence and smartness could lead to exclusionary behaviors, especially for underrepresented students in engineering.

Keywords: intelligence, smartness, engineering, inclusion

Carroll, T. K., & Kramer, A., & Dringenberg, E. (2019, April), Intelligence and Smartness in Engineering: Gatekeepers to Diversity and Inclusion Paper presented at 2019 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity , Crystal City, Virginia.

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