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The Dynamics of Perspective-taking in Discussions on Socio-technical Issues

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Socio-Technical Issues in Engineering

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

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Paper Authors


Ayush Gupta University of Maryland, College Park

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Ayush Gupta is Assistant Research Professor in Physics and Keystone Instructor in the A. J. Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland. Broadly speaking he is interested in modeling learning and reasoning processes. In particular, he is attracted to fine-grained analysis of video data both from a micro-genetic learning analysis methodology (drawing on knowledge in pieces) as well as interaction analysis methodology. He has been working on how learners' emotions are coupled with their conceptual and epistemological reasoning. He is also interested in developing models of the dynamics of categorizations (ontological) underlying students' reasoning in physics. Lately, he has been interested in engineering design thinking and engineering ethics education.

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Andrew Elby University of Maryland, College Park

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Andrew Elby's work focuses on student and teacher epistemologies and how they couple to other cognitive machinery and help to drive behavior in learning environments. His academic training was in Physics and Philosophy before he turned to science (particularly physics) education research. More recently, he has started exploring engineering students' entangled identities and epistemologies.

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Chandra Anne Turpen University of Maryland, College Park

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Chandra Turpen is a Research Associate at the University of Maryland, College Park with the Physics Education Research Group. She completed her PhD in Physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder specializing in Physics Education Research. Chandra’s work involves designing and researching contexts for learning within higher education. In her research, Chandra draws from the perspectives of anthropology, cultural psychology, and the learning sciences. Through in-situ studies of classroom and institutional practice, Chandra focuses on the role of culture in science learning and educational change. Chandra pursues projects that have high potential for leveraging sustainable change in undergraduate STEM programs and makes these struggles for change a direct focus of her research efforts.

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Thomas M. Philip University of California, Los Angeles

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Thomas M. Philip is an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies at the University of California Los Angeles.

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The work of professional engineers is socio-technical, in that the technical solutions they produce have deep short and long-term impact on the social, political, and economic fabric of society at small and large geopolitical scales (Bucciarelli, 2008). As such, in most real-world engineering problems, stakeholder ... s in any specific issue come from a huge variety of spheres representing, for example, business, government, policy, public and labor interests. Engineers often need to work with these different stakeholders in teams that are themselves inter-disciplinary. To create solutions that attend to welfare of the public and the different stakeholder interests in an ethical manner it is important that professional engineers be able to understand, empathize with, and represent multiple perspectives in the context of a specific issue (Brown & Wyatt, 2010). But changing perspectives, to look at a topic from some other actor’s viewpoint can be challenging, especially if the viewpoints are in conflict, represent different interests, or draw on experiences situated in very different economic or political realities. So it is important to create models of how current and future engineers engage in perspective-taking in socio-technical contexts. This has been an underexplored topic in engineering education research. Drawing on King and Kitchener’s reflective judgment model (2004), Ziedler et al. (2009) characterize how engineering students in clinical interviews argue when presented with multiple perspectives on a specific issue such as alcoholism. Adams’ matrix of informed design characterizes how trajectories of expertise in design might be aligned with greater ability at taking multiple stakeholders into account. We aim to build on this work, by characterizing how future professional engineers negotiate multiple perspectives in the context of a socio-technical issue in a group-discussion setting over multiple days of discussion. Our data comes from video records of a cohort of 6 engineering students (seniors and graduate students) discussing the impact of introducing waste-management technologies in India under the Kyoto Protocol. The students met for 4 focus group sessions of 1.5 hours each. We draw on the notions of narrative analysis (Wortham, 2000) and footing shifts (Goffman, 1974) to attend to (i) how the different perspectives students are taking on position the stakeholders in different relationships with respect to each other and draw on broader socio-political ideologies, influencing how they evaluate the ethics in that specific situation and (ii) the interactional dynamics of the shifts in perspectives that are taken up by the students. Thus we aim to characterize empirically what it means to take on a perspective in discourse as well as the dynamics of how perspectives (and associated ideologies) are taken up and/or contested in the unfolding conversation. Through this we aim to build richer accounts of perspective taking in engineering ethics discussions and inform the design of learning environments for engineering ethics education.

Gupta, A., & Elby, A., & Turpen, C. A., & Philip, T. M. (2016, June), The Dynamics of Perspective-taking in Discussions on Socio-technical Issues Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26129

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