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Reaching Out to the Masses: Building Literacy About Engineering Amongst Non-engineering Students

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Promoting Engineering and Technological Literacy

Tagged Division

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1304.1 - 26.1304.19



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Paper Authors


Jonathan Grunert Virginia Tech

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Jonathan Grunert is a graduate student in Virginia Tech's department of Science and Technology in Society, with backgrounds in history and library science. His broader interests are in the history of scientific representation. He has taught courses in American history, Science and Society, and Engineering Cultures.

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Peter Doolittle Virginia Tech

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Peter Doolittle is currently the Assistant Provost for Teaching and Learning, Executive Director of the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER), and Professor of Educational Psychology in the Department of Learning Sciences and Technologies at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia. He has published more than 50 peer-reviewed articles and chapters, provided over 50 national and international keynote and invited addresses, presented over 100 conference presentations, and received in excess of $2 million in grant funding. His current research focus includes the investigation of working memory capacity and learning efficacy in multimedia learning environments.

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Stephanie G. Adams Virginia Tech

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Dr. Stephanie G. Adams is the Department Head and Professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. She previously served as Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the School of Engineering at Virginia Commonwealth University and was a faculty member and administrator at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). Her research interests include: Teamwork, International Collaborations, Faculty Development, Quality Control/Management and Broadening Participation. She is an honor graduate of North Carolina A&T State University, where she earned her BS in Mechanical Engineering, in 1988. In 1991 she was awarded the Master of Engineering degree in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia. She received her Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Engineering from Texas A&M University in 1998. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the National Science Foundation's most prestigious, Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award. She is a Fellow of the American Society of Engineering Education, holds membership in a number of organizations and presently serves on the National Advisory Board of the National Society of Black Engineers.

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Reaching Out to the Masses: Building Literacy About Engineering Amongst Non-Engineering StudentsBackground: A well-rounded education makes a good citizenry. This is a central tenet for ourexploration of engineering literacy as a general education course at Land Grant University. Forour purposes, we define engineering literacy along the lines of problem-solving and decisionmaking, with engineering knowledge as a key component in discussing and offering criticalperspectives about issues that surround social needs. We have worked to determine the state ofcurrent evidence-based instructional strategies, curricular structure, and student learningoutcomes in CLE (Curriculum for a Liberal Education) courses.Methods: This project relies on both formative and summative assessment processes to monitorachievement of the goals of the program, specifically paying attention to the improvement ofteaching and learning engineering literacy in the context of liberal education. Through SPOT(Student Perceptions of Teaching) surveys, other surveys, interviews, focus groups, and analysisof course syllabi, we have explored the ways that faculty and students value good teaching andactive learning.Results: The interviews have shown a spectrum of faculty response, demonstrating interest in anengineering literacy course, though with concerns about discrete boundaries that shieldengineering from other components of a well-rounded education.Conclusion: We argue that engineering literacy builds a healthy appreciation for the work ofengineers. This is not limited to the structures or services provided by engineering, but itincludes the benefits of engineering to society. Students in an engineering literacy course canlearn why engineering is relevant to non-engineering fields, but also how non-engineering fieldsare important for engineering. Upon conclusion of this project, we intend to design a course inengineering literacy for students outside the engineering majors to take as a part of their liberaleducation.

Grunert, J., & Doolittle, P., & Adams, S. G. (2015, June), Reaching Out to the Masses: Building Literacy About Engineering Amongst Non-engineering Students Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24641

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