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Reading the World of Engineering Education: An Exploration of Active and Passive Hidden Curriculum Awareness

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

LEES Session 9

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Paper Authors


R. Downey

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Dr. Robert Jamaal Downey has been a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Engineering Education at the University of Florida since 2021. His current research is focused on determining how engineering students respond to hidden curriculum as well as how Latinx contingent faculty experience workplace inequities in engineering. He received his Ph.D. in Language, Literacy, and Culture in Education from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Dr. Downey's personal story and academic interest converge around: identity; language, ideology and consciousness; pedagogy, and epistemology. Broadly speaking, he focuses on critical qualitative inquiry with a discerning eye toward humanizing and culturally sustaining pedagogies.

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Idalis Villanueva University of Florida

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For the past 10 years, Dr. Idalis Villanueva has worked on several engineering education projects where she derives from her experiences in engineering to improve outcomes for minoritized groups in engineering using mixed-and multi-modal methods approaches. She currently is an Associate Professor in the Engineering Education Department at the University of Florida. In 2019, she received the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) award for her NSF CAREER project on hidden curriculum in engineering. Dr. Idalis Villanueva has a B.S. degree is in Chemical Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez and a M.S. and Ph.D. degree in Chemical and Biological Engineering from the University of Colorado-Boulder. Soon after, she completed her postdoctoral fellowship from the National Institutes of Health in Analytical Cell Biology in Bethesda, Maryland and worked as a lecturer for 2 years before transitioning to a tenure-track in engineering education. Her experiences as a first-generation engineer, Latinx, woman of color, introvert, and mother has shaped the lens and research-informed practical approaches that she uses in her research.

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This paper seeks to better understand the distinct, and sometimes intersectional ways that particular identities receive the hidden curriculum (HC) (unacknowledged and often, unintentional systemic messages that are structurally supported and sustained) in engineering [1]. From the validated instrument (UPHEME; [2]), 120 participants communicated, in written form, that the HC they received was either active (intentionally and explicitly transmitted) or passive (unintentionally and implicitly transmitted). Using a theoretical, sociological framework of symbolic interactionism in which thematic, content, and magnitude coding was conducted, we found that most White participants identified the HC as passive (74%) while People of Color (POC) defined the HC as being active (40%). Additionally, when participants identified the HC as passive, there was an observed difference of 14% between White participants (74%) and POC (60%). Furthermore, women of color (WOC) experienced the most passive and active HC out of all the groups. The findings provide a more nuanced look into the ways that the HC transmissions are received differently by individuals in engineering education.

Downey, R., & Villanueva, I. (2022, August), Reading the World of Engineering Education: An Exploration of Active and Passive Hidden Curriculum Awareness Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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