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Priming Civil Engineers Into Human-Centered Designing (and Its Unexpected Consequences)

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Teamwork: Priming, Empathy, and Metacognition

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

30

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/37600

Download Count

144

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Paper Authors

biography

Nathalie Al Kakoun Swansea University

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Nathalie Al Kakoun holds a BEng in Civil Engineering (Hons) and is now pursuing a multidisciplinary PhD, crossing engineering with psychology, at Swansea University. Nathalie is currently researching and designing interventions that characterise empathy and social consciousness in engineers and civil engineering design processes. She is also currently researching engineering mindsets, attempting to understand (and further align) the compatibility of engineering mindsets to engineers’ engagement with public-welfare related, human-centred designing frameworks.

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Frederic Boy Swansea University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0003-1373-6634

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Frederic Boy is an Associate Professor in Digital Analytics and Cognitive Neuroscience at Swansea University’s School of Management and an honorary Senior Lecturer in Engineering at University College, London. Previously, he did his PhD in Grenoble University and trained in Cardiff University, where he held a Wellcome Trust VIP fellowship. His research interests include brain science, cognitive psychology, artificial intelligence and biomedical engineering. He is working on a range of multidisciplinary projects at the intersection of neuroscience and engineering, digital humanities and, more recently economics, with a new focus on the interplay between Artificial Intelligence and Mental Health.

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Catherine Groves

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A Chartered Occupational Psychologist and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Catherine draws on over 20 years’ operational management experience, to support her academic work. She remains involved in supporting and advising on the work of a number of social enterprises and charities locally. Her main areas of interest and research are in action learning, critical management, social enterprise and all things psychological. As an experienced coach, Catherine is particularly active in the area of leadership and team development, making innovative use of virtual reality technology and critical thinking to develop and enhance leadership competency in M level students. She is also a highly experienced psychometrician.

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Patricia Xavier Swansea University

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Patricia is a water engineer with a background in both the private and public water sector. She has expertise in the design of flood alleviation schemes and wastewater networks. Patricia leads Academic Programme Enhancement and Development for the College of Engineering. With her background in industry, she is keenly aware that the sector-wide academisation and de-contextualisation of engineering education is leading to an engineering sector that struggles to relate theory to practice.

Her main area of research is into the social impact of engineers and engineering – critiquing how the methodologies adopted by engineers can sometimes run counter to the needs of communities they serve and reinforce structures of power that maintain inequality. Civil Engineering in particular is inextricably linked up with societal change, and responsible engineering is about understanding wider environmental and social impacts of design and construction. Patricia teaches creative design modules that give students tools and techniques (Human-centered design, VR collaborative design tools) to find their own brand of creativity, while prompting students to consider how their individual privilege and biases impact on their design decisions.

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Abstract

There are many ongoing calls for the integration of public welfare concerns into engineering curricula, for example promoting social consciousness, human-centred design, and other socially-related frameworks. However, some engineering students still seem to devalue or resist these initiatives. This paper explores a new methodology to facilitate such integrations, with the intention of bypassing the possible resistance to considering non-technical, socially-orientated aspects, by exploiting a psychology-informed approach of priming. As priming holds the potential of inducing empathy (a prerequisite to human-centred designing practices, and a precondition to consciousness), and bypassing ‘disruptive transitional behaviour’, we test to see if we can prime civil engineers into human-centred designing. Students’ levels of self- and social- awareness and consciousness (which are also factors contributing to engineering professional formation), were recorded before and after their engagement with our version of a Human-Centred Design Task. The effect of priming on these indicators was also captured. No significance in the before versus after results was found, and results showed no significant impact of the priming on the Self-Awareness Indicators. However, there were unexpected results of students’ levels of Social-Awareness Indicators. Students’ levels of Social Consciousness were shown to have significantly decreased (rather than increased) due to the priming. The results led to further expanding the literature review to seek a possible explanation. We discuss possible reasons behind these results, linking their decrease due to the priming, to the self-enhancing, agentic personal engineering values. These values appear to have a contribution towards decision making (and thus, problem solving), and an influence on the students’/ designers’ engagement with empathy (which is a prerequisite to human-centred designing). This sheds light on the need to expand the research on the topic of engineering personal values, and their possible influence on human-centred design, and other socially-related design processes and factors.

Al Kakoun, N., & Boy, F., & Groves, C., & Xavier, P. (2021, July), Priming Civil Engineers Into Human-Centered Designing (and Its Unexpected Consequences) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37600

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