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Mapping ELE Initiatives: Approaches, Underlying Assumptions, and Conceptual Challenges

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

The Big Picture in Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Donna M. Riley Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Donna Riley is Kamyar Haghighi Head of the School of Engineering Education and Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University.

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Dean Nieusma Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Orcid 16x16

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Dean Nieusma is Associate Professor in Science and Technology Studies and Director of the Programs in Design and Innovation at Rensselaer.

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This paper investigates a range of approaches to Engineering and Liberal Education (ELE) integration, identifying the strategic and conceptual dimensions that drive them and some of their associated underlying assumptions. The analysis focuses on a set of purportedly exemplary case studies recently published as part of ASEE's Engineering-Enhanced Liberal Education (EELE) initiative. Drawing on theoretical insights from science and technology studies (STS) and engineering studies, the paper considers how various EELE cases manifest or resist (or both) some of the conceptual challenges of traditional engineering epistemologies, such as those around positivism, technical-social dualisms, and technological determinism. The paper finds that the EELE case studies, although embodying a variety of positive efforts in this regard, tend overwhelmingly to impose a patently engineering worldview upon liberal education instead of participating as one among many equally valid ways of knowing that is fundamental to liberal education. In this way, we argue, the EELE cases wittingly or unwittingly undermine, or even abandon, the foundational principles of liberal education.

Riley, D. M., & Nieusma, D. (2017, June), Mapping ELE Initiatives: Approaches, Underlying Assumptions, and Conceptual Challenges Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28650

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