July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
This Work in Progress paper will explore the efforts to weave an exploration of engineering as both a social and a technical discipline into an elective course for first year students. Students enter the discipline with perceptions that engineering is an applied field involving problem solving and teamwork, but have often not considered engineering as a complex discipline that requires both technical knowledge and contextual understanding of social and societal factors (Karataş, et al., 2016). To be successful, engineering solutions need to be technically sound; however, they must also be desirable and feasible when considering both contextual constraints and consequences to local and global scales (Palmer, et al., 2011; Ro, Merson, Lattuca, and Terenzini, 2015).
Engineering 110 is an introductory course in which students explore the breadth of opportunities available to engineers in both their education and their career. The course is structured around three key themes: What is Engineering?, Exploring Michigan and Michigan Engineering, and Self-Understanding. In Fall 2020, 50% of the first year undergraduate engineering students at our institution enrolled in this course.
Students explore elements of the course through online Foundation, Engagement and Exploration modules accompanied by in-class discussion. During the Fall 2020 semester, the instructional team integrated the theme of engineering as a social discipline into multiple aspects of the course, including three of the initial five foundation modules, multiple in-class discussion topics (social identity, decision-making, educational planning, ethics, etc.), and a design and decision-making model introduced to students in partnership with [a program focused on socially engaged design] at our institution. Additionally, all first-year students at our institution participate in a Common Read Experience, for which one of the program goals is “to facilitate meaningful discussions regarding the role and responsibility of an engineer in society, as well as emphasize the importance of engineers developing competencies beyond the technical.” (Edington, Holmes & Reinke, 2015) Students who were enrolled in Engineering 110 discussed the required text through in-class dialogue, thereby providing another avenue to shape first year students’ understanding of engineering as a social discipline. Finally, this theme was often reinforced by faculty and guest speakers through faculty perspective videos and a Perspectives on Engineering speaker series.
This paper examines whether framing engineering as a social discipline within the first semester influences the choices students make for future academic and experiential learning. The course culminates with an action plan that students design for the remainder of their academic experience. We will conduct a qualitative analysis of student submissions for the action plan and provide data collected through two in-class student activities. We will also draw on student responses from a post survey administered at the completion of the Fall 2020 semester to understand how the framing of engineering as a social discipline shaped students' learning.
Future work should involve a longitudinal assessment of the impact of these efforts, including an examination of the impact on sense of belonging and persistence, particularly for female and underrepresented minority students.
Edington, S., & Skerlos, S. J., & Cameratti-Baeza, C. G., & Chapin, A. M., & Marsik, F. J. (2021, July), WIP: Engineering As a Social Discipline: Shaping First-Year Students’ Understanding Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/38082
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