Asee peer logo

Scripts of Whiteness in engineering: An analysis of the literature

Download Paper |

Conference

2024 Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity (CoNECD)

Location

Arlington, Virginia

Publication Date

February 25, 2024

Start Date

February 25, 2024

End Date

February 27, 2024

Conference Session

Track 3: Technical Session 4: Scripts of Whiteness in engineering: An analysis of the literature

Tagged Topics

Diversity and CoNECD Paper Sessions

Page Count

11

DOI

10.18260/1-2--45475

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/45475

Download Count

46

Request a correction

Paper Authors

biography

R. Jamaal Downey

visit author page

Dr. Downey is an Assistant Research Scientist at the University of San Diego. He received his Ph.D. in Language, Literacy, and Culture in Education from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Dr. Downey focuses on critical qualitative inquiry with a discerning eye toward humanizing and culturally sustaining pedagogies. Currently, he is focused on uncovering and exposing scripts of whiteness within engineering education with an end goal to devise faculty development.

visit author page

biography

Joel Alejandro Mejia The University of Texas at San Antonio Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0003-3908-9930

visit author page

Dr. Joel Alejandro (Alex) Mejia is an Associate Professor with joint appointment in the Department of Biomedical and Chemical Engineering and the Department of Bicultural-Bilingual Studies at The University of Texas at San Antonio. His research has contributed to the integration of critical theoretical frameworks in engineering education to investigate deficit ideologies and their impact on minoritized communities. His work seeks to analyze and describe the assets, tensions, contradictions, and cultural collisions many Latino/a/x students experience in engineering through testimonios. He is particularly interested in approaches that contribute to a more expansive understanding of engineering in sociocultural contexts, the impact of critical consciousness in engineering practice, and the development and implementation of culturally responsive pedagogies in engineering education.

visit author page

biography

Diana A. Chen University of San Diego Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0003-3616-1538

visit author page

Diana A. Chen, PhD is an Associate Professor and one of the founding faculty members of Integrated Engineering at the University of San Diego. She earned her BS in Engineering from Harvey Mudd College, and MS and PhD in Civil Engineering from Clemson University. In collaboration with colleagues, Dr. Chen is designing a new engineering curriculum to educate changemakers who understand that engineering is an inherently socio-technical activity. Her passion is studying and encouraging culture change in engineering curricula and spaces to shift engineering to be a field more inclusive of diversity in all forms. Her scholarly interests include engineering education that contextualizes engineering sciences and design, exploring engineering boundaries for inclusive pedagogy, and sustainability and bio-inspired design in the built environment.

visit author page

biography

Gordon D Hoople University of San Diego Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-2663-4664

visit author page

Dr. Gordon D. Hoople is an assistant professor and one of the founding faculty members of integrated engineering at the University of San Diego. He is passionate about creating engaging experiences for his students. His work is primarily focused on two ar

visit author page

biography

Susan M Lord University of San Diego Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-2675-5626

visit author page

Susan Lord is Professor and Chair of Integrated Engineering at the University of San Diego. She received a BS from Cornell University in Materials Science and Electrical Engineering (EE) and MS and PhD in EE from Stanford University. Her research focuses on the study and promotion of equity in engineering including student pathways and inclusive teaching. She has won best paper awards from the Journal of Engineering Education, IEEE Transactions on Education, and Education Sciences. Dr. Lord is a Fellow of the IEEE and ASEE and received the 2018 IEEE Undergraduate Teaching Award. She is a coauthor of The Borderlands of Education: Latinas in Engineering. She is a co-Director of the National Effective Teaching Institute (NETI).

visit author page

Download Paper |

Abstract

Previous research in engineering education has identified the characteristics and behaviors associated with being an engineer, including aspects such as dress norms, professionalism, and standards. These studies have also explored the reasons why historically marginalized students may experience a sense of alienation from the engineering field. In the realm of engineering, learning how to become an engineer is shaped through the hidden curriculum, everyday interactions and the cognitive dynamics that are involved in those interactions. These cognitive dynamics are called “scripts” and they involve the schemas and frames of reference that build one’s engineering identity. As individuals engage with the field, they develop scripts by adopting the behaviors and traits that are recognized as traditional characteristics of engineers by their mentors, professors, peers, industry leaders, and others within the engineering community. Young engineers learn to employ the language, phrases, practices, skills, values, and beliefs that signify their acquisition of the social constructs associated with the engineering world while allowing them to acculturate within their respected field .

Moreover, engineering scripts often center around whiteness – a socially constructed formation that functions as a system of social control. Some examples of whiteness include the racialization of students of color and their portrayal as incapable of performing in engineering (i.e., deficit ideologies), the idea that engineering knowledge is only constructed in English (i.e., language subtraction), or the perception that people are selected to engineering spaces just based on ability (i.e., meritocracy). In this paper, we analyze current literature in engineering education research to argue that scripts of whiteness in engineering are detrimental for women and people of color because they keep racialization in engineering spaces in perpetual motion. We posit that individuals in engineering spaces are not only conditioned to scripts of whiteness but also become the bearers of racialized hierarchical classifications to maintain power and sustain systemic barriers in engineering education. Guided by the questions: (1) how is whiteness interpreted and manifested in engineering and (2) what common scripts of whiteness are prevalent in engineering spaces, a systemic review of the literature was performed. Given that the research on whiteness in engineering is not very extensive, the literature review was not limited to journals in engineering education research but also those published in journals such as in higher education, science education, and counseling psychology. We argue that the lack of diversity in engineering is a direct outcome of a system that perpetuates white supremacy to actively keep students of color away, and we suggest that engineering education research cannot move forward toward racial equity unless these scripts are identified and challenged rather than being considered part of the “engineering culture.” Future work will explore how these scripts are developed, maintained, and promoted in engineering.

Downey, R. J., & Mejia, J. A., & Chen, D. A., & Hoople, G. D., & Lord, S. M. (2024, February), Scripts of Whiteness in engineering: An analysis of the literature Paper presented at 2024 Collaborative Network for Engineering & Computing Diversity (CoNECD), Arlington, Virginia. 10.18260/1-2--45475

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2024 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015