July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
Through a series of ethnographic vignettes, this paper portrays a few exceptional experiences in engineering education during the initial impacts of COVID-19 and the forced transition to online learning in the United States. Despite social and physical distancing, and the interruption of live in-person education, we take account of how engineering educators engaged and situated students’ learning experiences in engineering education. In this way, we aim to scale up two anthropological concepts into the growing field of engineering education research (EER): “engaged universals” (Tsing 2005), and an elaboration on “situated learning” (Lave and Wenger 1991) Jean Lave refers to as, “apprenticeship in critical ethnographic practice” (2011). This paper will highlight the affordances of learning conceived in these terms through a description of our interlocutors’ pedagogical practices and educational infrastructures. Furthermore, COVID-19 has both exacerbated and made more obvious the unevenness and inequities in our educational practices, processes, and infrastructures. For this reason, we also account for how these exceptional engineering educators took the opportunity to socially broaden their classrooms and their curricula to include, not just public health matters, but also contemporary political and social movements—i.e., Black Lives Matter (BLM).
This paper is a product of an ongoing collaborative NSF EAGER project (DUE-1745922) and early conceptual work (in-progress) on the relationship between educational technology (EdTech) startups and academic institutions through the examination of diverse pathways of lifelong learners, from pre-college to post-graduation and industry onboarding, and the affordances and pitfalls of MOOCs and Small Private Online Courses (SPOCs) for supplementing STEM education. The research project began before the impacts of COVID-19, at a workshop at Santa Fe Institute (June 2018) attended by stakeholders from academia, government, and industry invested in lifelong learning in engineering education. The workshop aimed to address the general lack of communication between key stakeholders in the ecosystem of engineering education. Since the first workshop, we have been conducting semi-structured interviews with selected participants, and their colleagues and collaborators through “snowball sampling” (interlocutor referral).
Using the metaphor of “an ecosystem” to make sense of the governance of engineering education and the epistemic relationships between institutions and individuals (Akera 2007; Rosenberg 1979; Star et al. 1995), the method of snowball sampling offered a way to map “ecological niches” and “entangled banks” (see Hagen 1992). This would not have been possible without the dense (and high profile) associations of key interlocutors we refer to as “keystone” social actors—who cultivate spaces (historical material) and places (phenomenological) to play with the double-binds that inhere in engineering education criteria, and balance problem definition with problem solving. In this paper, we are dedicated to “saving the ‘small N’” (Slaton and Pawley 2018) of anthropological community studies within EER, with particular interest in how small actions can bring about major changes in the ecosystem of engineering education.
De Pree, T. A., & Appelhans, S., & Cheville, A., & Akera, A., & Shuey, M. (2021, July), Situating Engineering Education in a World Impacted by COVID-19 Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37718
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