Virtual On line
June 22, 2020
June 22, 2020
June 26, 2021
Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session
Three broad and enduring issues have been identified in the professional formation of engineers: 1) the gap between what students learn in universities and what they practice upon graduation; 2) the limiting perception that engineering is solely technical, math, and theory-oriented; and 3) the lack of diversity (representation of a wide range of people, thought, and approaches toward engineering) and lack of inclusion (belonging and incorporating different perspectives, values, and ways of thinking and being in engineering) in many engineering programs. These are not new challenges in professional formation. Furthermore, these issues are highly complex, interconnected, and not amenable to simple solutions, that is, they are “wicked” problems. We argue that wicked problems are best understood and mitigated through design thinking as it is a useful perspective for addressing complex and ambiguous issues. Thus, this NSF-funded RFE study utilizes a design thinking approach and research activities to explore foundational understandings of formation and diversity and inclusion in engineering while addressing the three project objectives: 1) Better prepare engineers for today’s workforce; 2) Broaden understandings of engineering practice as both social and technical; and 3) Create and sustain more diverse and inclusionary engineering programs.
Our project is organized around the three phases of the design process (inspiration, ideation, and implementation), and embedded within the design process is a longitudinal, multiphase, mixed-methods study. Although the goal is to eventually study these objectives on a broader scale, we begin by engaging faculty, students, and staff members within two related, but distinctly different departments, the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and Biomedical Engineering (BME) departments at Purdue University.
In year one, we implemented activities of the Inspiration Phase which included collecting and analyzing survey, interview, and observation data from a broad set of stakeholders which included faculty, staff, and administrators and students (undergraduate and graduate) in both ECE and BME departments. During year two, the Ideation phase, we facilitated design sessions with faculty, staff, and students from each of the two departments to investigate underlying issues and then to develop prototypes related to diversity and inclusion and professional formation. During the Implementation phase, in year three, we worked with BME and ECE stakeholders to further define and develop the prototypes. Additionally, we continued to assess stakeholders’ understanding of the effectiveness of design thinking toward organizational change in both departments.
In the paper, we provide an overview of our emerging findings and key outcomes from across all phases of the project. Specifically, we will discuss how the research has identified ways in which understandings of diversity and inclusion are impacted significantly by the local contexts of each department and compounded by the larger College/University/discipline-wide understandings of who is an engineer and what skills legitimize the identity of “an engineer.” Additionally, we are developing strategies and tools using design thinking that other academic programs can potentially use to address complex issues in their departments.
Zoltowski, C. B., & Brightman, A. O., & Buzzanell, P. M., & Eddington, S., & Corple, D., & Matters, M., & Booth-Womack, V. L. (2020, June), Using Design to Understand Diversity and Inclusion within the Context of the Professional Formation of Engineers Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--35461
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