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  1. In our NSF RFE sponsored research project, we have been investigating the intersection of three goals in engineering education: professional formation of students, an integrated sociotechnical perception of engineering, and increased diversity and inclusion. We approached this investigation into possible social change with design thinking. We engaged with faculty, staff, and students in a collaborative design process as part of a comparative study of two engineering departments – the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering (BME) – at Purdue University. Our project has been 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. During this third phase of the project, implementation, we have been both challenged and enabled by events and shifting conversations around the viral pandemic of disease and the widespread activism around racial injustice. In this paper, we provide an overview of the larger project’s previous analyses of the surveys and interview data from faculty, staff, administrators, students, and alumni in both ECE and BME which we have conducted. These analyses will provide insight on the indirect and/or longer-term impact on the school’s cultures andmore »on aspects that are more embedded in the schools and disciplines, as well as those that are more amenable to change. In addition, we describe how design processes and mindsets have and can be used to address complex issues in engineering education, and how this approach facilitated the working groups/committees that emerged in both BME and ECE as part of this project. We also describe the data we are collecting in the final year of the project to understand the impacts of this project, as well as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the attention to racial disparities on our research questions.« less
  2. Scholars of engineering education have acknowledged a need for greater connection between research and engineering teaching practice in order to see sustainable change in engineering schools. This study examines the contrast between STEM education research on the positive impact of faculty on diversity and inclusion and some engineering faculty’s lack of actual involvement with these issues. We examine the faculty of an electrical and computer engineering (ECE) department at Purdue University using Fishbein and Ajzen’s reasoned action model for behavior to determine factors in the department that influence faculty’s intention to make change for diversity and inclusion. We conducted interviews with ECE faculty about diversity, inclusion and department culture, and then an inductive thematic analysis organized around the reasoned action model. The major themes revealed that many faculty do not see involvement with diversity and inclusion as a norm in the department, and do not recognize their power to influence these issues. Our conclusions provide recommendations for engineering departments to meaningfully involve their faculty in improving diversity and inclusion.
  3. The low numbers of women and underrepresented minorities in engineering has often been characterized as a ‘pipeline problem,’ wherein few members of these groups choose engineering majors or ‘leak out’ of the engineering education pipeline before graduating [1]. Within this view, the difficulty of diversifying the engineering workforce can be addressed by stocking the pipeline with more diverse applicants. However, the assumption that adding more underrepresented applicants will solve the complex and persistent issues of diversity and inclusion within engineering has been challenged by recent research. Studies of engineering culture highlight how the persistence of women and minorities is linked to norms and assumptions of engineering cultures (e.g., [2], [3]). For example, some engineering cultures have been characterized as masculine, leading women to feel that they must become ‘one of the guys’ to fit in and be successful (e.g., [4]). In the U.S., engineering cultures are also predominantly white, which can make people of color feel unwelcome or isolated [5]. When individuals feel unwelcome in engineering cultures, they are likely to leave. Thus, engineering culture plays an important role in shaping who participates and successfully persists in engineering education and practice. Likewise, disciplinary cultures in engineering education also carry assumptionsmore »about what resources students should possess and utilize throughout their professional development. For example, educational cultures may assume students possess certain forms of ‘academic capital,’ such as rigorous training in STEM subjects prior to college. They might also assume students possess ‘navigational capital,’ or the ability to locate and access resources in the university system. However, these cultural assumptions have implications for the diversity and inclusivity of educational environments, as they shape what kinds of students are likely to succeed. For instance, first generation college (FGC) students may not possess the same navigational capital as continuing generation students [5]. Under-represented minority (URM) students often receive less pre-college training in STEM than their white counterparts [6]. However, FGC and URM students possess many forms of capital that often are unrecognized by education systems, for example, linguistic capital, or the ability to speak in multiple languages and styles) [7], [8]. Educational cultures that assume everyone possesses the same kinds of capital (i.e. that of white, American, high SES, and continuing generation students) construct barriers for students from diverse backgrounds. Thus, we propose that examining culture is essential for understanding the underlying assumptions and beliefs that give rise to the challenging issues surrounding the lack of diversity and inclusion in engineering. This case study examines the culture of a biomedical engineering (BME) program at a large Midwestern university and identifies underlying assumptions regarding what sources of cultural and social capital undergraduate students need to be successful. By tracing when and how students draw upon these forms of capital during their professional development, we examine the implications for students from diverse backgrounds, particularly FGC and URM students.« less
  4. 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
  5. This Research Work-in-Progress paper builds on previous literature related to the professional formation of engineers and issues pertaining to diversity and inclusion within engineering though a comparative analysis of two different disciplines. These issues are complex, interrelated and challenging to untangle, and thus require innovative strategies to explore them. Our larger study utilizes design thinking with an embedded mixed-methods research approach to investigate foundational understandings of professional formation and diversity and inclusion in engineering. Herein, we describe preliminary findings from co-design sessions we conducted in Biomedical Engineering (BME) and Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at Purdue University. We compare the design solutions generated by stakeholders and discuss insights regarding the unique contexts and needs of each program, as well as the impacts of the different activities and contexts of the design sessions themselves.
  6. The lack of diversity and inclusion has been a major challenge affecting engineering programs all over the United States. This problem has been persistent over the years and has been difficult to address despite considerable amount of attention, enriched conversations, and money that has been put towards addressing it. One of the reasons behind this lack of diversity could be the presence of exclusionary behaviors, such as bias and discrimination that permeate the culture of engineering. To address this “wicked” problem, a deeper understanding of current culture and of potential change strategies toward integrating inclusion and diversity is necessary. Our larger NSF funded research project seeks to achieve this understanding through design thinking. While design thinking has been documented to successfully achieve desired outcomes for numerous other problems, its effectiveness as a tool to understand and solve the “wicked problem” of transformation of disciplinary culture related to diversity and inclusion in engineering is not yet known. This Work-in-Progress paper will address the effectiveness of using a design thinking approach by answering the research question: How did stakeholder participants perceive the impact of design sessions on their understanding and value of diversity and inclusion in the professional formation of biomedical engineers?more »To address this research question, our research team is coordinating six design sessions within each of two engineering schools: Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and Biomedical Engineering (BME) at a large Midwest University. Currently, we have completed the initial phases of the design sessions in the BME school, and hence this paper focuses on insights from preliminary data analysis of BME Design sessions. BME design sessions were conducted with 15 key stakeholders from the program including students, faculty, staff and administrators. Each of the six design session was two hours long. The research team facilitated the inspiration and ideation phase of the design thinking process throughout. Facilitation involved providing prompts and activities to guide the stakeholders through the design thinking processes of problem identification, problem scoping, and prototype solution generation related to diversity and inclusion within the school culture. A mixed-methods approach involving both qualitative and quantitative data analysis is being used to evaluate the efficacy of design thinking as a tool to address diversity and inclusion in professional formation of engineers. Artifacts such as journey maps, culture maps, and design notebooks generated by our stakeholders throughout the design sessions will be qualitatively analyzed to evaluate the role and effectiveness of design thinking in shaping a more diverse and inclusive culture within BME and, eventually ECE. Following the design sessions, participants were interviewed one-on-one to understand how their thoughts about diversity and inclusion in professional formation of biomedical engineers may have changed, and to gather participants’ self-assessment of the design process. Coupled with the interviews, an online survey was administered to assess the participants’ ranking of the solutions generated at the conclusion design sessions in terms of their novelty, importance and feasibility for implementation within their school. This Work-in-Progress paper will discuss relevant findings from initial quantitative analyses of the data collected from the post-design session surveys and is an interim report evaluating participants’ perceptions of the impact of these design sessions on their understanding of diversity and inclusion in professional formation of biomedical engineers.« less
  7. This project explores how engineering students understand diversity and inclusion within their engineering programs, and how these understandings are shaped by aspects of the environment in which they are situated. Our study is a component of a broader research project that is examining the seemingly intractable problems of diversity and inclusion that emerge through the converging threads of formation of professional identity and culture of engineering disciplines. In this study we utilized a qualitative analysis of interview data to explore the undergraduate students’ perceptions of diversity and inclusion within the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at Purdue University [1]. Our interview draws upon cultural dimensions of engineering disciplines that encourage student to reflect upon and assess diversity and inclusion efforts within ECE [2]. To interrogate students’ perceptions of diversity and inclusion, we interviewed 13 current or past undergraduate ECE students. With nearly 40 percent of the undergraduate ECE students identifying as international students, such a significant international population poses tremendous learning opportunities as well as challenges related to diversity and inclusion. Thus, formal efforts within ECE have been made to bridge cultural differences, develop intercultural competencies, and promote inclusion of internationally and domestically diverse ECE members. However, thesemore »efforts have met with mixed results. Our analysis of the interview data suggests that these efforts often were not aligned with literature about how to successfully bridge culture differences in that they lacked an explicit focus on students’ understandings of diversity and inclusion, nor did they provide opportunities for students to reflect on their personal and educational experiences. In what follows, we first examine the framing of scholarship about diversity and inclusion within engineering and then draw upon literature using Kolb’s experiential learning models to illuminate the transformational nature that reflection plays within establishing ways of viewing complex social problems. With this combination and reimagining of reflection as a pathway to more deeply understanding diversity and inclusion, we describe our research methods, data analysis, and the findings from our qualitative analysis. Finally, we conclude with a discussion of the tensions pertaining to difference and sameness that emerged through our analysis. Namely, formal efforts within ECE required both scaffolding and intentionality. Without proper facilitation, the central role that diversity and inclusion plays within professional formation appeared forced, created more cultural isolation, or students ignored these efforts altogether to complete assignments. We conclude by offering both theoretical and pragmatic implications for engineering curriculum.« less