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Kindness in Engineering Education

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

TELPhE Division Technical Session 2: The Broadening Face of Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Angela R. Bielefeldt University of Colorado Boulder

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Angela Bielefeldt is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder in the Department of Civil, Environmental, and Architectural Engineering (CEAE) and Director for the Engineering Plus program. She has served as the Associate Chair for Undergraduate Education in the CEAE Department, as well as the ABET assessment coordinator. Professor Bielefeldt was also the faculty director of the Sustainable By Design Residential Academic Program, a living-learning community where students learned about and practice sustainability. Bielefeldt is also a licensed P.E. Professor Bielefeldt's research interests in engineering education include service-learning, sustainable engineering, social responsibility, ethics, and diversity.

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In light of the disruptions in higher education brought about by COVID responses, faculty were encouraged to be more accommodating of student issues. These edicts largely could be construed as showing kindness. But why should faculty kindness toward students only be manifested in the face of a global pandemic? Even before the pandemic there was a growing mental health crisis in higher education, just one driver of many to spur faculty to treat students with kindness. This paper explores issues of kindness in engineering and engineering education. What evidence is there that kindness is congruent or incongruent with engineering education? What is the value of considering kindness in comparison to the constructs of care, empathy, and compassion? The perspectives of a variety of scholars are synthesized in this analysis. This is followed by concrete examples of teaching and course practices that are emblematic of kindness, such as compassionate pedagogy. The author argues that kindness is appropriate to embody within engineering education, irrespective of externally obvious stressors like a global pandemic.

Bielefeldt, A. R. (2021, July), Kindness in Engineering Education Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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