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Teaching Ethical Photography to Deepen Global Engineering Competency

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Ethical and Global Concerns

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

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Paper Authors


Robert S. Emmett Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Emmett serves as Assistant Director for Global Engagement in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech. He is the author of Cultivating Environmental Justice: A Literary History of US Garden Writing (University of Massachusetts Press, 2016) and with David E. Nye, Environmental Humanities: A Critical Introduction (MIT Press, 2017). With Gregg Mitman and Marco Armiero, he edited the collection of critical reflections and works of art, Future Remains: A Cabinet of Curiosities for the Anthropocene (University of Chicago, 2018). His humanities scholarship has appeared in the journals Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, Environmental Humanities, Resilience and elsewhere

From 2013-2015, Dr. Emmett served as Director of Academic Programs at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society in Munich, Germany. He has taught humanities courses in interdisciplinary programs at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich. He holds a Ph.D. in English (University of Wisconsin) and is a certified Project Management Professional.

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Homero Murzi Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Orcid 16x16

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Homero Murzi is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. He holds degrees in Industrial Engineering (BS, MS), Master of Business Administration (MBA) and in Engineering Education (PhD). Homero has 15 years of international experience working in industry and academia. His research focuses on contemporary and inclusive pedagogical practices, industry-driven competency development in engineering, and understanding the barriers that Latinx and Native Americans have in engineering. Homero has been recognized as a Diggs scholar, a Graduate Academy for Teaching Excellence fellow, a Diversity scholar, a Fulbright scholar and was inducted in the Bouchet Honor Society.

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Natasha B. Watts Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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As the Assistant Director of Online Learning in the College of Engineering at Virginia Tech Natasha provides college-level leadership for the design, development, implementation, and evaluation of distance learning initiatives. Watts is the main point of contact for distance related issues within the college.

Before coming to Virginia Tech, Natasha worked as an Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator for Visual Communication at Hazard Community and Technical College. Watts began her career at Appalshop, a non-profit media arts center located in the coal fields of Eastern, Kentucky, serving as a director, educator, filmmaker and youth media trainer. For the last ten years, her work has focused on placed-based visual learning and using distance learning methodologies to facilitate rural classrooms equality. Watts is passionate about distance learning, accessibility, and Appalachia. She believes there is a classroom for everyone.

Natasha has a Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcasting and Electronic Media, with a minor in Appalachian Studies and a Master’s of Science in Career and Technical Education with an emphasis on occupational training and development from Eastern Kentucky University, and an Ed.D. in Educational Technology and Leadership from Morehead State University.

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We propose to report on two aspects of an ongoing project to teach engineering students to learn from international experiences by taking more ethically sound photographs. First, we will examine baseline assessment data from a photo-elicitation assignment completed in summer 2019 alongside student scores on the Global Perspectives Inventory (GPI). Second, we will outline an online module to train students in the same course in spring 2020 to take better photographs of their short-term travel. This project is integrated into an existing first-year engineering course, “Global STEM Practice,” part of the Rising Sophomore Abroad Program (RSAP) at Virginia Tech. It is currently the largest faculty-led study abroad program at the university. Our work builds on published assessment research conducted by Engineering Education faculty and graduate students [1, 2, 3]. Through lectures and discussion sections that travel overseas for two weeks after final exams, RSAP seeks to increase students’ global engineering competency (GEC). Competency is measured at three points: week 1, week 15, and after they travel (+2 weeks), using several instruments, including the GPI. Beginning in 2019, RSAP students were asked to reflect on photographs taken during their short-term travel in terms of their own learning goals as engineers in a global STEM course. Instructors designed this photo elicitation assignment based on previous arts-informed methods used to explore students’ development of STEM identity [4]. A recent study evaluated photo-elicitation as a promising method to teach critical reflection to graduate engineering students [5]. Yet the scale of RSAP and its internal diversity—students attend one lecture course but travel independently to multiple locations— add complexity for using photo-elicitation to improve students’ GEC. A qualitative analysis of the 2019 assignments is being undertaken, deliberately incorporating visual data into mixed methods educational research informed by the literature [6, 7, 8]. Preliminary results indicate that having students take photographs without training in ethics and visual literacy risks reinforcing negative visual stereotypes and undermining GEC. While some students’ reflections indicate growth in terms of greater comfort with lifestyles that differ from their own and awareness of issues of equity and difference, others produce naïve, touristic, and even patronizing perspectives on non-US locales. Facing this pedagogical dilemma, Virginia Tech Engineering Online and the Office of Global Engineering, Engagement and Research collaborated to develop an online module to teach visual responsibility in spring 2020. The visual responsibility module will gather additional assessment data to address three related research questions: 1) How do students learn to see themselves as engineers in a global context? 2) How does learning to produce ethical images of engineering in a global context impact global engineering competency? 3) How does agile design of online modules affect student engagement and achievement of learning outcomes? By answering these questions, we hope to shed light on how best to teach engineering students to use and make images ethically in intercultural contexts as they gain global competency. References [1] K. A. Davis and D. B. Knight, “Impact of a global engineering course on student cultural intelligence and cross-cultural communication,” Journal of International Engineering Education, vol. 1, no. 1, p. Article 4, 2018. [2] K. A. Davis, D. Reeping, A. R. Taylor, C. D. Edwards, H. G. Murzi, and D. B. Knight, “Characterizing students’ intercultural competence development paths through a global engineering program,” presented at the 2018 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Salt Lake City, UT, 2018. [3] D. B. Knight, K. A. Davis, T. Kinoshita, M. M. Soledad, and J. R. Grohs, “Assessing students’ global and contextual competencies: Three categories of methods used to assess a program with coursework and international modules,” presented at the 2017 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Columbus, OH, 2017. [4] D. Ozkan, C. Edwards, S. Bhaduri, and D. Bairaktarova, “Sketching with students: An arts-informed qualitative analysis of first-year engineering students,”presented at the 2018 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Salt Lake City, UT, 2018. [5] C. G. P. Berdanier, X. Tang, and M. F. Cox, “Ethics and Sustainability in Global Contexts: Studying Engineering Student Perspectives Through Photoelicitation: Ethics and Sustainability in Global Contexts,” J. Eng. Educ., vol. 107, no. 2, pp. 238–262, Apr. 2018. [6] P. Shannon-Baker and C. Edwards, “The Affordances and Challenges to Incorporating Visual Methods in Mixed Methods Research,” American Behavioral Scientist, vol. 62, no. 7, p. 935-955, 2018. [7] A. L. Cole and J. G. Knowles, “Drawing on the Arts, Transforming Research: Possibilities of Arts-Informed Perspectives,” in L. Markauskaite, P. Freebody, and J. Irwin, Eds., Methodological choice and design: scholarship, policy and practice in social and educational research, 1. ed. Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 119-131, 2010. [8] A. L. Cole and J. G. Knowles, “Arts-informed research.” in J. G. Knowles and A. L. Cole, Eds., Handbook of the arts in qualitative research, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 55-70, 2008.

Emmett, R. S., & Murzi, H., & Watts, N. B. (2020, June), Teaching Ethical Photography to Deepen Global Engineering Competency Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35275

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