Asee peer logo

Thinking as Argument: A Theoretical Framework for Studying how Faculty Arrive at Their Deeply-held Beliefs About Inequity in Engineering

Download Paper |


2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Faculty Perspectives of Active Learning, Inequity, and Curricular Change

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Jeremy Grifski Ohio State University

visit author page

Jeremy Grifski is a Graduate Research Associate in the department of Engineering Education at The Ohio State University. Previously, he completed an undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering at Case Western Reserve University and went on to work for General Electric Transportation as a part of their Edison Engineering Development Program. Recently, Jeremy completed a Master's in Computer Science and Engineering under Dr. Atiq and is currently completing a PhD in Engineering Education under Dr. Dringenberg. His research interests include exploring ideological beliefs as a reflection of tech culture. In his free time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing about programming languages, and playing video games.

visit author page


Emily Dringenberg Ohio State University Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Dr. Dringenberg is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Ohio State University. She holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering (Kansas State '08), a M.S. in Industrial Engineering (Purdue '14) and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education (Purdue ’15). Her team, Beliefs in Engineering Research Group (BERG), utilizes qualitative methods to explore beliefs in engineering. Her research has an overarching goal of leveraging engineering education research to shift the culture of engineering to be more realistic and inclusive--especially with regard to beliefs about decision making, smartness, and the causes of race- and gender-based minoritization. In general, she is always excited to learn new things and work with motivated individuals from diverse backgrounds to improve the experiences of people at any level in engineering education.

visit author page


Dira Melissa Delpech Ohio State University

visit author page

Dira M. Delpech is a graduate GEM Fellow at the Ohio State University in the Department of Engineering education and the Department of Engineering Management . She earned a B.S in Civil Engineering and a B.A in French in 2020 from the University of Rhode Island. Besides her academic duties, she also works as a Learning and Talent Coordinator and consultant in Providence, RI where she works on various projects on teacher's loans forgiveness programs, curriculum improvement and case management. Dira's current research interests align with diversity, equity, and inclusion, specifically for Women of color, as well as community building and involvement

visit author page

Download Paper |


When it comes to engaging with complex, social problems, it is important to be aware of not only what one believes, but also why one believes it. Plus, focusing on beliefs about the cause of a social phenomenon (e.g., what one believes causes inequitable participation of women in engineering) rather than just beliefs about the phenomena itself (e.g., what one believes about the extent to which gender inequity exists in engineering) is an important contribution to broadening participation because one’s causal beliefs relate to their ideas about what needs to happen to make engineering more equitable. In this paper, we describe our use of Thinking as Argument (TaA) as a promising theoretical framework for exploring how engineering educators arrive at their beliefs about the cause of gender-based inequity in engineering. According to TaA, the type of robust argument that is desirable for one to commit to their beliefs about the cause of complex social phenomena includes five distinct components: causal theory, evidence, counterargument, counterevidence, and rebuttal. By conducting interviews about gender-based inequity using TaA, we can explore 1) the ways in which individuals articulate their causal beliefs as arguments of varying sophistication, and 2) the ways in which individuals use evidence to commit to their beliefs. In this contribution, we: describe TaA as a framework, document how we used TaA in a pilot study to inform our ongoing research on engineering faculty’s causal beliefs, and provide initial evidence for TaA theory as a novel methodological contribution for studying beliefs related to equity in engineering. Specifically, our use of TaA revealed that while each participant offered a belief in a system-level cause of gender-based minoritization, there was considerable variation in the ways in which they used evidence to arrive at their beliefs and in their epistemological orientation toward gender-based inequities in engineering. We believe there is value in the use of TaA to study beliefs because ultimately, when we increase our explicit awareness of our commitment to our causal beliefs, we are better able to behave in ways that align with our beliefs and to develop agency to disrupt oppression.

Grifski, J., & Dringenberg, E., & Delpech, D. M. (2021, July), Thinking as Argument: A Theoretical Framework for Studying how Faculty Arrive at Their Deeply-held Beliefs About Inequity in Engineering Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--37909

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: © 2021 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