July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session
Meaningful inclusion of neurodivergent students in engineering requires us to move beyond a focus on accommodations and accessibility and embrace a strength-based approach toward neurodiversity. A large body of literature suggests that neurodivergent individuals, including those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) possess a wide range of unique strengths that may be assets in engineering. These strengths include divergent thinking, risk-taking, 3-dimensional visualization skills, pattern identification, and systems thinking. Despite the potential of nontraditional thinkers to contribute to engineering breakthroughs, recruitment and retention rates of neurodivergent students in engineering programs remain extremely low. The emphasis on conventional pedagogical methods in engineering programs, coupled with a deficit-based approach that is focused on the remediation of weaknesses, does little to foster the unique strengths of neurodivergent students. In addition to the obstacles posed by the traditional educational environment, the stigma related to a disability label leads many neurodivergent college students to neither disclose their diagnosis nor obtain academic accommodations that may help them to persist in a challenging learning environment. To address these challenges and realize the potential contributions of neurodivergent individuals to engineering fields, a research project funded by the Engineering Education and Centers of the National Science Foundation has been established to transform engineering education and create an inclusive learning environment that empowers diverse learners. The project encompasses a wide variety of interventions in all aspects of academic life, from recruitment to career development. As part of this program, three courses, Statics, Mechanics of Materials, and Fluid Mechanics, have been revised to address the unique strengths and challenges of neurodiverse students and improve the educational experience for all students. These pilot courses are fundamental engineering courses that are taken by a large number of students in a range of engineering majors including civil and environmental, mechanical, biomedical, and materials science and engineering. This paper presents an overview of a new framework for inclusive course design standards that were developed by engineering faculty along with experts in curriculum and instruction. Current universal design standards emphasize aligning course objectives, learning experiences and assessments, explaining course information clearly, and using varied and accessible instructional materials. These universal design standards are adequate to provide courses that are accessible to all learners. However, to provide inclusive courses for neurodivergent students, additional standards are necessary to ensure that students can identify and use their unique strengths in an engineering context. The new framework expands upon universal design principles and provides standards that are anchored in a strength-based approach and centered around three core elements: a culture of inclusion, teaching and learning, and instructional design. The standards’ application across the three courses has common elements (e.g., ability to choose standard versus creativity-based assessments) and differences to reflect instructor style and course content (e.g., incorporation of design aspects in more advanced courses). It is anticipated that the use of these standards will improve learning outcomes and enhance the educational experience for neurodivergent students.
Chrysochoou, M., & Zaghi, A. E., & Syharat, C. M., & Motaref, S., & Jang, S., & Bagtzoglou, A., & Wakeman, C. A. (2021, July), Redesigning Engineering Education for Neurodiversity: New Standards for Inclusive Courses Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://strategy.asee.org/37647
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