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Title: Situating Engineering Education in a World Impacted by COVID-19
In June 2020, at the annual conference of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE), which was held entirely online due to the impacts of COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2), engineering education researchers and social justice scholars diagnosed the spread of two diseases in the United States: COVID-19 and racism. During a virtual workshop (T614A) titled, “Using Power, Privilege, and Intersectionality as Lenses to Understand our Experiences and Begin to Disrupt and Dismantle Oppressive Structures Within Academia,” Drs. Nadia Kellam, Vanessa Svihla, Donna Riley, Alice Pawley, Kelly Cross, Susannah Davis, and Jay Pembridge presented what we might call a pathological analysis of institutionalized racism and various other “isms.” In order to address the intersecting impacts of this double pandemic, they prescribed counter practices and protocols of anti-racism, and strategies against other oppressive “isms” in academia. At the beginning of the virtual workshop, the presenters were pleasantly surprised to see that they had around a hundred attendees. Did the online format of the ASEE conference afford broader exposure of the workshop? Did recent uprising of Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests across the country, and internationally, generate broader interest in their topic? Whatever the case, at a time when an in-person conference could not be convened without compromising public health safety, ASEE’s virtual conference platform, furnished by Pathable and supplemented by Zoom, made possible the broader social impacts of Dr. Svihla’s land acknowledgement of the unceded Indigenous lands from which she was presenting. Svihla attempted to go beyond a hollow gesture by including a hyperlink in her slides to a COVID-19 relief fund for the Navajo Nation, and encouraged attendees to make a donation as they copied and pasted the link in the Zoom Chat. Dr. Cross’s statement that you are either a racist or an anti-racist at this point also promised broader social impacts in the context of the virtual workshop. You could feel the intensity of the BLM social movements and the broader political climate in the tone of the presenters’ voices. The mobilizing masses on the streets resonated with a cutting-edge of social justice research and education at the ASEE virtual conference. COVID-19 has both exacerbated and made more obvious the unevenness and inequities in our educational practices, processes, and infrastructures. This paper is an extension of a broader collaborative research project that accounts for how an exceptional group of engineering educators have taken this opportunity to socially broaden their curricula to include not just public health matters, but also contemporary political and social movements. Engineering educators for change and advocates for social justice quickly recognized the affordances of diverse forms of digital technologies, and the possibilities of broadening their impact through educational practices and infrastructures of inclusion, openness, and accessibility. They are makers of what Gary Downy calls “scalable scholarship”—projects in support of marginalized epistemologies that can be scaled up from ideation to practice in ways that unsettle and displace the dominant epistemological paradigm of engineering education.[1] This paper is a work in progress. It marks the beginning of a much lengthier project that documents the key positionality of engineering educators for change, and how they are socially situated in places where they can connect social movements with industrial transitions, and participate in the production of “undone sciences” that address “a structured absence that emerges from relations of inequality.”[2] In this paper, we offer a brief glimpse into ethnographic data we collected virtually through interviews, participant observation, and digital archiving from March 2019 to August 2019, during the initial impacts of COVID-19 in the United States. The collaborative research that undergirds this paper is ongoing, and what is presented here is a rough and early articulation of ideas and research findings that have begun to emerge through our engagement with engineering educators for change. This paper begins by introducing an image concept that will guide our analysis of how, in this historical moment, forms of social and racial justice are finding their way into the practices of engineering educators through slight changes in pedagogical techniques in response the debilitating impacts of the pandemic. Conceptually, we are interested in how small and subtle changes in learning conditions can socially broaden the impact of engineering educators for change. After introducing the image concept that guides this work, we will briefly discuss methodology and offer background information about the project. Next, we discuss literature that revolves around the question, what is engineering education for? Finally, we introduce the notion of situating engineering education and give readers a brief glimpse into our ethnographic data. The conclusion will indicate future directions for writing, research, and intervention.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1745922
NSF-PAR ID:
10290445
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
ASEE annual conference exposition
ISSN:
2153-5965
Page Range / eLocation ID:
https://peer.asee.org/37718
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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