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Title: Tensions in Applying a Design-Thinking Approach to Address Barriers to Increasing Diversity and Inclusion in a Large, Legacy Engineering Program
We are focusing on three interconnected issues that negatively impact engineering disciplinary cultures: (1) diversity and inclusion issues that continue to plague engineering programs; (2) lack of adequate preparation for professional practices; (3) and exclusionary engineering disciplinary cultures that privilege technical knowledge over other forms of knowledge [1]. Although much effort has been devoted to these issues, traditional strategic and problem-solving orientations have not resulted in deep cultural transformations in many engineering programs. We posit that these three issues that are wicked problems. Wicked problems are ambiguous, interrelated and require complex problem-scoping and solutions that are not amenable with traditional and linear strategic planning and problem-solving orientations [2]. As design thinking provides an approach to solve complex problems that occur in organizational cultures [3], we argue that these wicked problems of engineering education cultures might be best understood and resolved through design thinking. As Elsbach and Stigliani contend, “the effective use of design thinking tools in organizations had a profound effect on organizational culture” [3, p. 2279]. However, not all organizational cultures support design thinking approaches well. Despite increasing calls to teach design as a central part of professional formation (e.g., ABET, National Academy of Engineers, etc.), many engineering programs, more » especially larger, legacy programs have not embraced fundamental design thinking [4-5] strategies or values [6-7]. According to Godfrey and Parker, many engineering cultures are characterized by linear epistemologies, “black and white” approaches to problem solving, and strategic “top down” ways of designing [8]. In contrast, design thinking approaches are characterized by ways of thinking and designing that prioritize prototyping, multiple stakeholder perspectives, and iterative problem-solving to address complex problems. In this paper, we examine the effectiveness of design thinking as a tool to address wicked problems in engineering education cultures, and the role of engineering culture itself in shaping the application and effectiveness of design thinking. More specially, we evaluate the role of design thinking in seeking cultural transformation at a School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at Purdue University. We analyze interviews of members of the School after they participated in six design thinking sessions. Our previous research explored the effect of design thinking sessions on participant understanding of diversity and inclusion in biomedical engineering [9]. Herein, we explore participant experiences of design thinking sessions toward cultural change efforts regarding diversity and inclusion (D&I) within professional formation in ECE. We identified three tensions (push/pull dynamics of contradictions) that emerged from the participants’ experiences in the design sessions [10]. We conclude by discussing our emerging insights into the effectiveness of design thinking toward cultural change efforts in engineering. « less
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ASEE annual conference & exposition proceedings
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National Science Foundation
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