Asee peer logo

Pedagogies Of Liberation In An Engineering Thermodynamics Class

Download Paper |


2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Women in Engineering: New Research

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.918.1 - 8.918.16



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors

author page

Donna Riley

Download Paper |

NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Pedagogies of Liberation in an Engineering Thermodynamics Class

Donna Riley Assistant Professor Picker Engineering Program, Smith College Northampton, MA 01063


Pedagogies of liberation, including feminist and critical pedagogies based on the works of bell hooks*, Paulo Freire and others, were employed in teaching Engineering Thermodynamics with two classes of women at Smith College. Aspects of course development, assignments, and classroom dynamics are discussed, including connecting course material to student experience, emphasizing students as authorities in the classroom, integrating ethics and policy considerations, problematizing science as objectivity, and de-centering western (and male) civilization. Appropriate assessment methods for this type of course are presented with results from the first two classes, pointing to areas for further development. Critiques and limitations of the use of liberative pedagogies in engineering education are discussed, as well as the potential for these methods to address the needs of all students while increasing the accessibility and attractiveness of engineering for underrepresented groups. 1. 2.


For many years, efforts toward increasing the participation of traditionally underrepresented groups in engineering have not placed sufficient emphasis on pedagogy or curriculum as avenues for reform, despite repeated calls to do so. Davis and Rosser1 note that when institutions undertake curricular reform, they rarely consider the gender impacts of their efforts, let alone fully integrate curricular reform with strategies to establish gender equity. The current mindset is that improving engineering education in mainstream ways, without considering gender or race, will help all students – “the rising tide raises all boats.” Thus, reforms - such as establishing relevance of course material - are often done only from a white male perspective, and may or may not have relevance for white women and people of color. Rosser 2 notes that when reforms are implemented after ties to ethnic or women’s studies have been severed, the helpful aspects of the reforms for students of color and white women are often lost.

* The name bell hooks is a writing voice the scholar, whose real name is Gloria Watkins, uses in order to remind readers that she is a holistic self who embodies more than just her words. She does not capitalize the name (Bell Hooks is actually her great-grandmother’s name) in order to emphasize the importance of what she says over who said it. For the sake of accuracy and out of respect, bell hooks is not capitalized here.

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Riley, D. (2003, June), Pedagogies Of Liberation In An Engineering Thermodynamics Class Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11854

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2003 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015