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The "Fibonacci Sequence" of Critical Theoretical Frameworks: Breaking the Code of Engineering Education Research with Underrepresented Populations

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Diversity and Inclusion

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Joel Alejandro Mejia Angelo State University Orcid 16x16

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Joel Alejandro Mejia is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at the University of San Diego. He is interested in research regarding underrepresentation of minority groups in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), especially the use of culturally responsive practices in engineering education. He is particularly interested in the use of comprehension strategy instruction in linguistically and culturally diverse classrooms; physical and digital manipulatives and their application in engineering courses; engineering identity; engineering literacies and critical literacies; cultures of engineering; retention, recruitment, and outreach for underrepresented minorities in STEM.

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Renata A. Revelo University of Illinois, Chicago

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Renata A. Revelo is a Clinical Assistant Professor in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She earned her B.S. and M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering and her Ph.D. in Education Organization and Leadership from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Idalis Villanueva Utah State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Villanueva is an Assistant Professor in the Engineering Education Department and an Adjunct Professor in the Bioengineering Department in Utah State University. Her multiple roles as an engineer, engineering educator, engineering educational researcher, and professional development mentor for underrepresented populations has aided her in the design and integration of educational and physiological technologies to research 'best practices' for student professional development and training. In addition, she is developing methodologies around affective management of curriculum, instruction, and research for engineering students.

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Similar to the Fibonacci sequence in the movie, the DaVinci code, patterns and sequences had to be uncovered to unlock the plan of action for the plot in the story. In a parallel manner, critical theoretical frameworks were developed to unlock “hard and complex truths” with the intent to critically analyze race, privilege, and marginalization of people of color from a legal standpoint. Eventually, critical theoretical frameworks were adapted to educational research to analyze complex systemic inequalities in education. For instance, one of the initial purposes of using critical frameworks in education was to challenge deficit thinking models. Although the deficit thinking models lacked empirical validations, critical theoretical frameworks had a powerful influence in educational practice because they challenged the idea that skills and attitudes of the students were to blame for students’ failure rather than the lack of structural changes in the schools. Thus, critical theoretical frameworks have played a very important role in cultural studies, education, social studies, and, in recent years, engineering education, by recognizing the “histories, experiences, cultures, and languages that have been devalued, misinterpreted, or omitted within formal educational settings” (Delgado-Bernal, 2002, p. 106). Although critical theoretical frameworks have been used to describe, in some instances, the continuous problem of underrepresentation of women and minorities in engineering, the misappropriation or misuse of these frameworks could be detrimental for the advancement of engineering education. Understanding how to accurately use critical theoretical frameworks can assist in analyzing the climate of engineering, its impact on underrepresented student populations, guide future research, and provide an opportunity to further improve the ways in which engineering “can become more inclusive and not simply superficially diverse” (Hiraldo, 2010, p. 54). The purpose of this literature review was to explore, synthesize, and critically analyze example research studies that use (or misuse) critical frameworks in engineering education. The literature review was guided by the following questions: 1. What are the common types of critical theoretical frameworks used to study underrepresented populations in engineering education? 2. Which populations are being studied in engineering education using critical theoretical frameworks, and which populations are not being considered? 3. How are these critical theoretical frameworks used in the research methodologies? The objective of this literature review is to describe how critical theoretical frameworks are being employed and emphasized in engineering education research. The databases EBSCO Host, IEEE Xplore, SAGE Research Methods, Journal of Engineering Education, ASEE PEER, Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, International Journal of Engineering Education, Advances in Engineering Education, and the Journal of STEM Education were used to locate primary sources. Several articles were identified as potential sources of information, but only articles published after the year 2005 concerning theoretical critical frameworks in engineering education spanning from the K-16 academic environment were considered relevant. A coding sheet was developed based on the characteristics significant to each study evaluated. The results of this evaluation, summarizing the outcomes of each study, were recorded in Landscape and Frequency tables.

Mejia, J. A., & Revelo, R. A., & Villanueva, I. (2017, June), The "Fibonacci Sequence" of Critical Theoretical Frameworks: Breaking the Code of Engineering Education Research with Underrepresented Populations Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28939

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