June 15, 2019
June 15, 2019
June 19, 2019
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
Research on engineering practice accentuates interplays between the social and technical dimensions of complex engineering problems. Yet within engineering education, relatively little content focuses on such interplays. Content in the engineering curricula often ignores the broader impacts or sociocultural contexts in which engineering designs, products, and services are created and used.
As part of a larger study, our research examines whether (compared to males) female undergraduate engineering students indicate similar or different perceptions on the integration of sociotechnical thinking in engineering curricula. The integration of sociotechnical thinking in engineering curricula represents one of several pedagogical techniques that may engage female (and perhaps also male) engineering students as a result of correlation to perceived learning preferences and broader interests.
After reviewing relevant literature, this paper analyzes quantitative survey data on student perceptions of the importance of sociotechnical integration in engineering education. Baseline sociotechnical survey data were collected in spring and fall semesters of 2018 in two (spring) and three (fall) engineering classes at two public universities: the Colorado School of Mines and University of Colorado Boulder.
Results demonstrate a greater preference for certain forms of sociotechnical thinking in engineering among women. For example, female students assigned greater importance to ‘Ethical’ and ‘Social’ considerations and skills such as ‘Listen to and integrate the perspectives of both engineers and non-engineers’ and ‘Work with people having a diverse set of backgrounds.’ Also, compared to male students, a higher percentage of female students characterized social responsibility as ‘Engineers’ obligations to the public’ and identified the reason why engineers have special societal obligations as due to the notion that ‘Engineering decisions can impact individuals, communities, and the broader public positively and/or negatively.’ These results are particularly salient when considered in light of recent research accentuating the importance of contextualized engineering problem-framing and solving processes within a broader sociotechnical context. Finally, we explore ways in which the results open up multiple directions for future research.
Swartz, M., & Leydens, J. A., & Walter, J. D., & Johnson, K. (2019, June), Is Sociotechnical Thinking Important in Engineering Education?: Survey Perceptions of Male and Female Undergraduates Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. https://peer.asee.org/33030
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