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Real-world Examples and Sociotechnical Integration: What's the Connection?

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Conference

2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Sociotechnical Integration

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

25

DOI

10.18260/1-2--35120

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/35120

Download Count

395

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Paper Authors

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Jacquelene Erickson Colorado School of Mines

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Jacquelene Erickson is a fourth year undergraduate student at Colorado School of Mines pursuing a major in Electrical Engineering. After graduation in May 2020, she plans to work in electrical distribution design at an engineering firm.

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Stephanie Claussen Colorado School of Mines

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Stephanie Claussen is a Teaching Professor with a joint appointment in the Engineering, Design, and Society Division and the Electrical Engineering Department at the Colorado School of Mines. She obtained her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2005 and her M.S. and Ph.D. from Stanford University in 2008 and 2012, respectively. Her current engineering education research interests include engineering students' understanding of ethics and social responsibility, sociotechnical education, and assessment of engineering pedagogies.

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Jon A. Leydens Colorado School of Mines

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Jon A. Leydens is Professor of Engineering Education Research in the Division of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences at the Colorado School of Mines, USA. Dr. Leydens’ research and teaching interests are in engineering education, communication, and social justice. Dr. Leydens is author or co-author of 40 peer-reviewed papers, co-author of Engineering and Sustainable Community Development (Morgan and Claypool, 2010), and editor of Sociotechnical Communication in Engineering (Routledge, 2014). In 2016, Dr. Leydens won the Exemplar in Engineering Ethics Education Award from the National Academy of Engineering, along with CSM colleagues Juan C. Lucena and Kathryn Johnson, for a cross-disciplinary suite of courses that enact macroethics by making social justice visible in engineering education. In 2017, he and two co-authors won the Best Paper Award in the Minorities in Engineering Division at the American Society for Engineering Education annual conference. Dr. Leydens’ recent research, with co-author Juan C. Lucena, focused on rendering visible the social justice dimensions inherent in three components of the engineering curriculum—in engineering sciences, engineering design, and humanities and social science courses; that work resulted in Engineering Justice: Transforming Engineering Education and Practice (Wiley-IEEE Press, 2018). His current research grant project explores how to foster and assess sociotechnical thinking in engineering science and design courses.

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Kathryn Johnson Colorado School of Mines

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Kathryn Johnson is an Associate Professor at the Colorado School of Mines in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and is Jointly Appointed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s National Wind Technology Center. In the fall 2011, she was a visiting researcher at Aalborg University in Denmark, where she collaborated on wind turbine control research and experienced Aalborg’s Problem-Based Learning method. She has researched wind turbine control systems since 2002, with numerous projects related to reducing turbine loads and increasing energy capture. She has applied experiential learning techniques in several wind energy and control systems classes and began engineering education research related to social justice in control systems engineering in fall 2014.

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Janet Y. Tsai University of Colorado, Boulder Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-2917-0367

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Janet Y. Tsai is a researcher and instructor in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research focuses on ways to encourage more students, especially women and those from nontraditional demographic groups, to pursue interests in the field of engineering. Janet assists in recruitment and retention efforts locally, nationally, and internationally, hoping to broaden the image of engineering, science, and technology to include new forms of communication and problem solving for emerging grand challenges. A second vein of Janet's research seeks to identify the social and cultural impacts of technological choices made by engineers in the process of designing and creating new devices and systems. Her work considers the intentional and unintentional consequences of durable structures, products, architectures, and standards in engineering education, to pinpoint areas for transformative change.

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Abstract

Engineering students in the United States are typically educated in a way that prioritizes the technical aspects of engineering problems while neglecting or not fully incorporating sociotechnical considerations. Prior research has proposed the idea that aspiring engineers require an understanding of how engineering practice occurs beyond the classroom and past the technical-heavy course load. The current emphasis in engineering courses privileges the technical and excludes and/or renders irrelevant the social dimensions of problem definitions and solutions, reinforcing social-technical dualism and providing an inaccurate portrayal of how engineering exists in the “real world.”

The application of sociotechnical integration, to bridge the divide between the social and technical within engineering education, continues to be an area of interest for engineering educators and researchers in the quest to more effectively prepare future engineers. It further seeks to raise awareness of the importance of having a sociotechnical perspective within engineering design [1]. Additional research underscores the importance of sociotechnical integration in the education of future engineers, through emphasizing both social and technical contributions of their work [2] and the ways in which they cannot be separated. [3] One challenge involved with this kind of integration is determining how it can most effectively be implemented for engineering students, particularly given the content-heavy nature of most engineering courses. Real-world examples within technical driven courses are frequently employed by engineering educators to promote effective learning and increase student interest and motivation [4], but sometimes these real-world examples remain highly techno-centric.

This paper strives to answer the following research questions:

1) What types and characteristics of real-world examples in engineering courses facilitate sociotechnical thinking? 2) From the student perspective, how can real-world examples more effectively promote sociotechnical thinking?

In this paper, we will attempt to analyze the similarities and differences between real-world engineering examples and sociotechnical thinking while also investigating what is broadly considered a “real-world example” in the engineering education literature. The way in which these examples are presented within classrooms will be analyzed to determine whether their implementation can be considered sociotechnical integration. We will use two sources of data to answer our research questions: 1) prior theoretical frameworks and pedagogical studies in the engineering education research and 2) qualitative data from an ongoing research project investigating sociotechnical integration in core engineering courses. These engineering courses consist of years 1, 2, and 3 of the engineering curricula at two universities. The qualitative data take the form of focus groups with engineering students and data from an in-class assignment focused on sociotechnical integration. These data sources give further insight on how real-world examples affect student learning and motivation, especially as they relate to sociotechnical thinking.

[1] Subrahmanian, Arthur Westerberg., “Integrating social aspects and group work aspects in engineering design education,” Institute for Complex Engineered Systems (2003). [2] Downey, G., “Are Engineers Losing Control of Technology? From ‘Problem Solving’ to ‘Problem Definition and Solution’ in Engineering Education,” Chemical Engineering Research and Design 83(A6): 583-595 (2005). [3] Trevelyan, J, (2014) The making of an expert engineer: how to have a wonderful career creating a better world and spending lots of money belonging to other people, Leiden, The Netherlands: CRC Press. [4] Gero, A., Stav-Satuby, Y., and Yamin, N., “Use of real world examples in engineering education: The case of the course Electric Circuit Theory.” World Transactions on Engineering and Technology Education (2017).

Erickson, J., & Claussen, S., & Leydens, J. A., & Johnson, K., & Tsai, J. Y. (2020, June), Real-world Examples and Sociotechnical Integration: What's the Connection? Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35120

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