Virtual On line
June 22, 2020
June 22, 2020
June 26, 2021
Liberal Education/Engineering & Society
Over the last 30 years, “engineering for development” initiatives have proliferated across the Western world and have become woven into the fabric of many higher education programs. Despite their good intentions, these programs have been critiqued due to lack of appropriate engagement with communities in co-creating solutions, failing to recognize the limitations of technology in achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs), as well as failing to interrogate structures and relations of power that impact on development interventions. In some cases, these efforts have reinforced social injustices.
There have been numerous efforts to embed social, political and economic context into engineering education, particularly in engineering for sustainable community development, so that engineers better understand the wider impacts that can result from their interventions. One such method is the integration of reflective exercises within engineering course work.
This paper traces the adoption of critical reflection as a core pedagogical strategy in an engineering management program focused on sustainable international development within one UK university. Critical reflection, which stems from a critical scholarly tradition, asks us to question our assumptions, recognize the role that power plays in shaping our social reality, and use reason to advance our emancipatory thinking and action.
Critical reflection is embedded within a program that recruits both engineers and non-engineers, with teaching and learning strategies drawn from the social sciences and humanities and integrated with engineering management and problem-based learning. The program connects students to a project partner in Sierra Leone or Zambia, the students work to understand their partners’ needs and assets and then develop an intervention plan consistent with the aims of the SDGs.
In this paper, we provide results of a critically reflexive thematic analysis to explore the nature of student reflections within the context of this interdisciplinary program. Evidence suggests a range of student interpretation of the purpose and application of critical reflection. Some are able expose unjust, implicit structures of power that operate within their team and/or project context. Some students continue to struggle to identify their own positionality and privilege. In addition, persistent gendered, racial and ethnic power dynamics seemed to emerge among students across two cohorts. However, the unique combination of critical reflection, interdisciplinary teamwork, real-world design work and intensive mentorship within this program appears to have created space for students to deepen their understanding of their positionality and privilege, and better understand how these issues play out within their practice.
Critical reflection may be a valuable pedagogical strategy for engineering higher education, particularly in concert with problem-based learning, that contributes to ongoing personal and professional development, and has the potential to mount meaningful challenge to unjust power dynamics in engineering for sustainable development.
Orbaek White, G., & Xavier, P., & Groves, C. (2020, June), The Places They Will Go: What Happens When Engineering Students Critically Reflect Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35356
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: © 2020 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