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Understanding Epistemological Change Due to a Course in Anthro-design: New insights for Engineering Epistemologies

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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

ERM Technical Session 22: Perspectives and Evaluation of Engineering Design Education

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Constanza Miranda Pontificia Universidad Catholica de Chile Orcid 16x16

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Constanza Miranda holds a PhD in design with a focus in anthropology from North Carolina State University. While being a Fulbright grantee, Constanza worked as a visiting researcher at the Center for Design Research, Mechanical Engineering Department, at Stanford. Today she is an assistant professor at P.Universidad Católica de Chile's Engineering School. There, she directs the DILAB: the engineering design initiative. Apart from developing the educational program in engineering design and innovation (Major IDI), the DILAB partners with forward thinking organizations to assess real life ill-defined issues. Past personal experiences involve work in industry and for consultancies such as Procorp Santiago, Cooper San Francisco and Continuum Milan. On the other hand Constanza is an entrepreneur in medical devices where she is continuously working in the detection of opportunities for innovation and development of new technologies. Her research work is focused mainly in the area of bio design, engineering-design education and design anthropology methods.

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Julián Iñaki Goñi Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile

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Julián is an educational psychologist from the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, with academic certification in Economy. He is an instructor and researcher at DILAB UC (School of Engineering UC). He has collaborated in diverse innovation projects with the National Innovation Council (CNID), the Center for Studies of Argumentation and Reasoning (CEAR UDP) and ChileCreativo. In DILAB UC he researches on tipics such as Engineering Education, Public Innovation and Teamwork. He is interested in research, theory and application of interdisciplinary social sciences, with emphasis on the intersection of psychology, innovation, education, philosophy and engineering.

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This is a work in progress. Engineering epistemologies is one of the key research areas in engineering education. This area currently focuses on what constitutes engineering thinking and knowledge (Adams et al. 2006). Relevant research efforts has been done to generate conceptual distinctions in engineering knowledge, but little research has focused on how students actually learn new epistemologies. Engineering “epistemic education” (Barzilai & Chinn, 2018) should be incorporated in this research agenda. In terms of educational psychology, this process can be understood as the sophistication of “epistemological beliefs” (Hofer & Bendixen, 2012) specific to engineering. Because of its exploratory nature, case studies and qualitative-driven research could inform future steps in the development of this sub-area of research. We examine a novel Anthro-Design course as a successful case of epistemological change in engineering undergraduate students in Chile. This course provides students with a structured research methodology to generate innovation opportunities for real counterparts from national industries and organizations. Student engagement in this applied research process is sustained and scaffolded through diverse teaching strategies such as lectures, participatory activities, class discussions and research activities. Throughout the course and activities students are provoked to adopt an anthropological and designer mindset to tackle engineering challenges. Specifically, this course promotes the use of cultural anthropology as a comprehensive framework, that is, as an epistemological belief system. Combined with anthropology, the design process is used as practical carrier of comprehensive findings. The course also holds a tension within the interaction of the role as an engineer in the applicable knowledge driven by industrial practice and the role of the engineer as a creator of knowledge. To evaluate epistemological change, we developed a sequential explanatory design (Creswell & Clark, 2007), with emphasis in qualitative data [quant->QUAL] (Morgan, 1998; Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2006). We used three items of the Epistemic Beliefs Inventory (EBI) –validated in Chile by Leal-Soto & Ferrer (2017)– to detect significant differences before and after the course. We will ask students to share their epistemic change journeys through semi-structured and narrative interviews and also through elicitation workshops. We envision our preliminary findings to depict epistemic change as a process closely linked to “hands-on” conceptual application and “real-world” experience more so than in-class theoretical discussion. That is, students should tend to internalize epistemic learnings more likely if it clarifies conflicts with their innovation projects treating with real people. We will seek to analytically showcase how specific teaching practices contribute –or not– to engineering epistemological change. Drawing from this experience, we propose educational insights to design effective epistemic education in engineering and research steps to continue this debate. Multidisciplinary courses with sufficient balance between robust theoretical background and concrete real-world educational practices could best fit the demands to generate epistemological change in engineering education.

Miranda, C., & Goñi, J. I. (2019, June), Understanding Epistemological Change Due to a Course in Anthro-design: New insights for Engineering Epistemologies Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33476

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