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Just Add Context? Analyzing Student Perceptions of Decontextualized and Contextualized Engineering Problems and their Use of Storytelling to Create Context

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Conference

2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society Division Technical Session 5

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count

21

DOI

10.18260/1-2--33035

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/33035

Download Count

301

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Paper Authors

biography

Nicole Farkas Mogul University of Maryland, College Park

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Nicole Mogul is a professor of engineering ethics and Assistant Director of the Science, Technology and Society at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Co-author, David Tomblin is the Director of the Science, Technology and Society Program of College Park Scholars at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Co-author, Tim Reedy, is a graduate assistant in the Science, Technology and Society Program of College Park Scholars at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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biography

David Tomblin University of Maryland, College Park

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David is the director of the Science, Technology and Society program at the University of Maryland, College Park. He works with STEM majors on the ethical and social dimensions of science and technology. David also does public engagement with science and technology work with government agencies such as NASA, DOE, and NOAA.

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Timothy Duane Reedy

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Abstract

Important scholarship in engineering education suggests that that the divide between social justice (SJ) concerns and technical knowledge in engineering curricula is an important reason that students with SJ concerns leave engineering [1, 2] Bielefeldt et al 2017). In their recent book, Engineering Justice, Leydens and Lucena [3] present criteria they hope “can be used to guide educators [to render] SJ visible within the engineering sciences without compromising valuable course content.” One approach is the so-called “Problem Re-write Assignment”: students write a context for a traditional “decontextualized” engineering science problem. We undertook this pilot study to understand how students frame their thinking about “contextualized/decontextualized” (Con/Decon) problems and what resources they would use to write a social context to an engineering science problem. Our goal is to better understand what it would take to successfully engage students around the social context of engineering science problems.

This paper draws on student responses to two assignments in two different semesters of an engineering ethics course. In this paper, we use open-coding to understand student attitudes toward contextualized and decontextualized problems and to get a better sense of how students articulate their thoughts about how context fits into engineering education. In addition, we analyze a storytelling assignment (students wrote context for a decontextualized problem) for the purpose of identifying strategies that students use to construct context and struggles they have doing so. We examine the way students choose scenarios, create relevant stakeholder maps in those scenarios, and the extent to which they integrate SJ issues into technical problems. In addition to evidence of four “engineering mindsets” previously outlined by Riley [4], we identify five themes in students’ perceptions of decontextualized problems and eight themes in their perceptions of contextualized problems. We also identify several strategies students employed for writing contextualized problems.

Mogul, N. F., & Tomblin, D., & Reedy, T. D. (2019, June), Just Add Context? Analyzing Student Perceptions of Decontextualized and Contextualized Engineering Problems and their Use of Storytelling to Create Context Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33035

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