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Theorizing the Role of Engineering Education for Society: Technological Activity in Context?

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Technological and Engineering Literacy/Philosophy of Engineering

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Paper Authors


Andrew Doyle KTH Royal Institute of Technology Orcid 16x16

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Andrew Doyle is a Doctoral Student at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. His doctoral research focuses on the relationship between curricula and enacted practice in Technology education. He is also interested in the Philosophy of Technology and Engineering, and the role of Technology and Engineering education for society.

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Lena B. Gumaelius KTH Royal Institute of Technology Orcid 16x16

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Dr Lena Gumaelius has a background as a researcher in Biotechnology, in which field she still teaches undergraduate students at KTH. (Lena got her Master of Science in chemistry 1993 and her PhD in Environmental Microbiology in 2001.)

In parallel with her research, she worked for several years with development of experiments for students at House of Science. In 2006 Lena became the director of House of Science, which she remained until 2012. House of Science is a university based Science centre with about 40 000 visitors were the goal is to stimulate high school students’ interest for the natural sciences, math and technology. During these years Lena developed her pedagogical skills and competence in the pedagogic field and besides leading the activities she organised pedagogical training for teachers, pupils and university students.

Between 2011 and 2016 Lena was the head of the new Department of Learning at the School of Education and Communication in Engineering Sciences (ECE), KTH. Lena was then responsible for building up a new strong research environment in engineering and technology education, K-12 to university level.

2016-2017 Lena was the Dean at the ECE school at KTH.
As this School was merged with another School in 2018, from January 2018 Lena has a research position as an Associate professor at the ITM school at KTH.

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Arnold Neville Pears Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) Orcid 16x16

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Arnold Pears received his BSc(Hons) in 1986 and PhD in 1994, both
from La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.
He occupied positions as lecturer and senior lecturer at La Trobe
University between 1991 and 1998. In 1999 he was appointed as senior lecturer at
Uppsala University, Sweden. He was awarded the Uppsala University Pedagogy
Prize in 2008, and appointed as Associate Professor of Computing
Education Research in May 2011. Roles at Uppsala University
include appointment to the University Academic Senate,
Programme Director for the IT Engineering programme, member
of the selection committee for the Uppsala University Pedgogy prize
and as member of the educational advisory board of the
Faculty of Technology and Natural Sciences.

He has a strong interest in teaching and
learning research in computer science and engineering, and leads the UpCERG
research group in computing and engineering education research at Uppsala University.
He has published more than 40 articles in the area internationally,
and is well known as a computing education
researcher through his professional activities in the ACM, and IEEE.
In the IEEE he serves as a member of the Board of Governors of the IEEE Computer
Society, where he is active in the Education Activities Board, serving also on
the steering committee of the Frontiers in Education Conference and as Chair of
the newly established Special Technical Community (STC) for Education.
In addition he is a Director of CeTUSS (The Swedish National Center for
Pedagogical Development of Technology Education in a Societal and
Student Oriented Context, and the IEEE Education Society Nordic
He as a reviewer for a number of major journals and conferences, including
the Computer Science Education Journal (Taylor and Francis),
and Koli Calling International Computer Science Education conferences.

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Niall Seery Athlone Institute of Technology Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Niall Seery is also the Director of the Technology Education Research Group (TERG)

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This paper establishes a theoretical position from which to analyse and reason about the difficulties associated with closing the gap between the provision of engineering education in universities and the needs of society. Broadly speaking, the disparity between societal expectations and university graduate profiles highlights that despite achieving success in university; recently graduated engineers are often under-prepared for their initial years in the workplace. Continuing reports of this disparity suggest that current efforts have not succeeded in sufficiently closing this gap.

As an antecedent to reforming engineering education policy or advocating a new pedagogical approach, we first theorise the role of engineering education for society. In adopting lessons from the philosophy of technology and how this has influenced the discourse surrounding K-12 technology education, the relationship between technological activity and technological knowledge is considered as a vessel though which to articulate engineering education. Through situating engineering disciplines as different contexts for technology, the need for engineering students to develop an ontological position towards engineering as technological activity, emerges as important.

In this view, we hold that a fluid epistemological boundary for engineering disciplines necessitates perspectives on how to enact engineering, as doing engineering in authentic contexts is advocated to support the well-established practices around learning about discipline specific declarative knowledge. The foregrounding of an understanding of engineering as technological activity, founded on (but not limited to) well-established discipline specific knowledge is framed as an ‘ontology-based curriculum’.

We conclude the paper with a discussion of some of the prevailing challenges to operationalising this conception of engineering education for society.

Doyle, A., & Gumaelius, L. B., & Pears, A. N., & Seery, N. (2019, June), Theorizing the Role of Engineering Education for Society: Technological Activity in Context? Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33436

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