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The Role of Transdisciplinary Studies in the reform of the Engineering Curriculum: A Case Study

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Promoting Engineering and Technological Literacy

Tagged Division

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1572.1 - 26.1572.14



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Paper Authors


John Heywood Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

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Dr Heywood is professorial Emeritus of trinity College Dublin-The University of Dublin. he is a Fellow of ASEEE and Life Sen Member IEEE and author of Engineering Education: research and development in Curriculum and Instruction..

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Mani Mina Iowa State University

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Mani Mina is with the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Iowa State University. He has been working on better understanding of students' learning and issues of technological and engineering philosophy and literacy. In particular how such literacy and competency are reflected in curricular and student activities. In addition he is active in research of engineering education and new focuses on engineering pedagogy.

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The Role of Transdisciplinary Studies in the reform of the Engineering Curriculum: A Case StudyAbstractPapers presented at meetings of the Technological and Engineering Literacy/PhilosophyDivision of the American Society for Engineering Education have in their discussions ofcurricular to service these literacies shown that engineering is a multi-faceted activity thatrequires engineers to have knowledge and skills that extend well beyond thosetraditionally associated with the engineering curricular. The pursuit of engineering andtechnological literacy is perceived to be a transdisciplinary activity. These studies whichare supported by other investigations and they lead to a generalized model of engineeringthat shows the need for “people” skills.While it is generally acknowledged that communication and teamwork skills areimportant and may be developed in projects less attention is given to the fact that thedevelopment of such skills depends on an understanding of the persons with whom theengineer is in agency. It seems evident that countries such as the United States in whichengineering students are expected to undertake some form of general education in orderto demonstrate they have had a liberal education that many students do not perceive theneed for such study: they perceive engineering to be a technical activity to be carried outby themselves for which there is no need for “people skills”. This may be the fault of thestudies being subject based and in isolation of the engineering activity points that havebeen discussed for many years by liberal educators and often expressed in the LiberalEducation Division of ASEE.One response to this problem has been to develop programs that integrate liberaleducation with engineering. Such programs are difficult to design and have to be basedon firm philosophical principles agreed by all the participants. Such programs also createconflicts between the demands of the traditional studies and the new. A completelydifferent approach to the traditional design of the curriculum based on content is required.The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the discussion about the design and contentof such courses through the illustration of a transdisciplinary on-line course developedand administered by the authors in 2013. The aim of the course was to enable theparticipants to reflect on who and what we are as individuals and engineers in a societythat is becoming increasingly complex. It integrates knowledge from numerousdisciplines. It is necessarily transdisciplinary.A major problem for those who wish to design interdisciplinary or transdisciplinarycourses is the lack of suitable introductory texts and the unwillingness of publishers topublish texts that fall outside the scope of the traditional curriculum and its numberedcourses. In this case the course was blended so that the text of course was made availablein parts at the time of a video presentation (SKYPE) which was presented a few days inadvance of a seminar/discussion (SKYPE).The authors describe the origins of the course, it aims and presentation and consider itspotential and limitations.  

Heywood, J., & Mina, M. (2015, June), The Role of Transdisciplinary Studies in the reform of the Engineering Curriculum: A Case Study Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24910

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