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Judging for Themselves: How Students Practice Engineering Judgment

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

The Philosophy of Engineering and Technological Literacy

Tagged Division

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering

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Paper Authors


Jonathan S Weedon Case Western Reserve University

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I am a graduate of English at Case Western Reserve University. I specialize in technical communication and engineering education and formation. My research is on how students learn to attend to engineering problems like professional engineers.

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Judging for Themselves: How Students Practice Engineering Judgment

Engineering judgment is a fundamental competency for a professional engineer and thus, a goal of engineering education. However, engineering judgment is difficult to define and difficult to teach. While a definition of engineering judgment remains elusive, there is consensus among philosophers and theorists that engineering judgment is the product of experience in an authentic engineering environment, which a classroom is unable to replicate. And yet judgments are made all the time by engineering students working on engineering problems, especially in design courses. The question is then how do engineering students exercise engineering judgment in the absence of experience? This paper offers conclusions on how inexperienced engineering students exercise and develop engineering judgment. I review the philosophical and pedagogical literature on engineering judgment to establish a working definition. I refine the working definition with data collected through a IRB- approved 14 week visual ethnography of students working as a team on a design project in Fall of 2014. I focus on moments of deliberation within the design process, and provide analysis of the micro-level of their interaction in order to understand how students ‘do’ engineering judgment. Findings suggest that student makes use of their everyday, practical, embodied experience to make judgments about the adequacy of engineering solutions through visualization techniques and the creation of counterfactual scenarios to test solutions. These findings help clarify how engineering judgment is understood, how it manifests in design projects, and grounds considerations for how judgment can be approached in the classroom.

Weedon, J. S. (2016, June), Judging for Themselves: How Students Practice Engineering Judgment Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25509

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