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Redesigning Engineering Education for Neurodiversity: New Standards for Inclusive Courses

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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

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count

23

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/37647

Download Count

246

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Paper Authors

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Maria Chrysochoou University of Connecticut

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Maria Chrysochoou is a Professor and Head of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Connecticut. She obtained her BS in Physics at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, her MS in Environmental Engineering at Technische Universität Dresden in Germany and her Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering at Stevens Institute of Technology. She was hired as Assistant Professor at the University of Connecticut in 2007, promoted to Associate Professor in 2013 and Full Professor in 2019 . Dr. Chrysochoou’s general research area is environmental geochemistry, with a focus on site remediation, characterization and reuse of industrial waste and construction materials. Dr. Chrysochoou’s serves as the Principal Investigator of the project “Beyond Accommodation: Leveraging Neurodiversity for Engineering Innovation”. Sponsored by the National Science Foundation Revolutionizing Engineering Department program, this 5-year project aims at transforming educational practices and cultivate the potential of neurodivergent individuals to contribute to engineering breakthroughs

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Arash E. Zaghi University of Connecticut

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Arash E. Zaghi is an Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Connecticut. He received his PhD in 2009 from the University of Nevada, Reno, and continued there as a Research Scientist. His latest research endeavor is on creativity and engineering education, with a focus on the unique potential of students with ADHD. Supported by multiple grants from the National Science Foundation, his research was highlighted the American Society of Engineering Education's Prism Magazine. He received a CAREER Award in 2016 to study the significance of neurodiversity in developing a creative engineering workforce.

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Connie Mosher Syharat University of Connecticut

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Constance M. Syharat is a Research Assistant at the University of Connecticut as a part of the NSF Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (NSF-RED) project, "Beyond Accommodation: Leveraging Neurodiversity for Engineering Innovation". In her time at the University of Connecticut she has also worked as a Research Assistant for NSF CAREER project "Promoting Engineering Innovation Through Increased Neurodiversity by Encouraging the Participation of Students with ADHD" and has served as Program Assistant for the related summer program for middle school students with ADHD. Prior to joining the University of Connecticut, she spent eight years as a public school teacher in Connecticut, where she maintained a focus on providing a varied learning environment and differentiated instruction for all types of learners. She received her Master's Degree in Modern Languages from Central Connecticut State University in 2011. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Hispanic Studies and her teaching certificate from Connecticut College in 2001.

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Sarira Motaref P.E. University of Connecticut

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Sarira Motaref is an assistant professor in residence in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Connecticut. She has been teaching large classes such as CE 2110 (Applied Mechanics I) and CE 3110 (Mechanics of Materials) which are major requirement across multiple disciplines in the School of Engineering since 2013. She has led the efforts within the Department to develop and deliver flipped sections of undergraduate courses. She is a licensed professional engineer. She has attended several teaching workshops and received certificates from UConn CETL (Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning) and NETI (National Effective Teaching Institutes). She is Winner of 2010 James D. Cooper Student Award at the International Bridge Conference, recipient of 2016 Klewin Excellence in teaching award and 2016 nominee for Mentorship Excellence Award from UConn office of undergraduates.

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Shinae Jang P.E. University of Connecticut Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0003-3559-8762

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Prof. Shinae Jang is Associate Professor in Residence and Director of Undergraduate Studies in the department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Connecticut (UConn). She joined UConn in 2010 after receiving her B.S. and M.S. from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) and her Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC). Prof. Jang’s research interests include smart structures, structural health monitoring, wireless sensor networks, and engineering education. At UConn, she has taught 9 undergraduate courses and 2 graduate courses, including a new graduate course she developed based on her research in structural health monitoring and sensors. Prof. Jang is the recipient of the 2021 Distinguished Engineering Educator award from UConn, and the 2018 Civil Engineering Educator of the Year award from the Connecticut Society of Civil Engineers. She has served as the faculty advisor of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) UConn Chapter since 2012.

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Amvrossios Bagtzoglou University of Connecticut

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Amvrossios (Ross) Bagtzoglou is Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Connecticut. He received his Ph.D. in Water Resources and Environmental
Engineering from the University of California, Irvine. His research interests include hydrologic modeling, estuarine and river water quality management, geostatistical simulation and probabilistic analyses. His current research projects are: 'Evaluation of Grid Resilience Activities with a Total System Performance Assessment Model' funded by Eversource Energy, 'PIRE: Food and Water Security in Ethiopia' funded by NSF, 'Cooperative Hydrogeophysics and Water-Resources Research' funded by USGS, and 'RED Innovation beyond Accommodation: Leveraging Neurodiversity for Engineering Innovation' funded by NSF.

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Caressa Adalia Wakeman University of Connecticut

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Abstract

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://peer.asee.org/37647

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