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  1. Cyclical models are often used to describe how students learn and develop. These models usually focus on the cognitive domain and describe how knowledge and skills are learned within a course or classroom. By providing insights into how students learn and thus how an instructor can support learning, these models and the schemas drawn from them also influence beliefs about learning and thus how educational programs are designed and developed. In this paper the authors present an alternative cyclical model of learning that is drawn from a philosophy of enactivism rather than rational dualism. In comparison with the dualism inherent in viewpoints derived from Descartes where learners construct internal mental representation from inputs received from the external world, in enactivism development occurs through continual dynamic interactions between an agent and their environment. Enactivism thus emphasizes the role environments play in learning and development. The model developed in this paper hypothesizes that the environment in which learning typically occurs can be represented by three elements: the learner’s identity and culture which informs personally significant goals and values; the affordances a degree program offers in areas of knowledge, identity, and context which informs the capabilities of the environment; and the implicit andmore »explicit goals of education as they are negotiated and understood by learners and teachers. These three elements are strongly coupled and together define the ever-changing learning environment. The paper explores how changing technologies and cultures affect each of these three elements in regards to students’ ability to become technologically literate. While rational or dualist views of education see such environmental changes as peripheral to developing accurate representations of truth, enactivism posits that environment significantly affects the process of education. Because each student or faculty member is a participant in a learning organization changes within the organization—whether externally or internally driven—change the learning process. If education is deemed successful when students can transfer learning to new contexts, dualist models assume transfer is weakly coupled to educational environments while the enactivist viewpoint posits that environments strongly affect transfer. The enactivist model can inform efforts to encourage technological literacy. Like many areas in STEM, education technological literacy has sought to identify and support learning outcomes that specify effective teaching or content interventions which enable learners to become more technologically literate. From the enactivist perspective, however, technological literacy is achieved by placing individuals into an environment in which they must navigate technology-induced challenges, with success defined as learning processes that allow learners to manage tensions inherent in their environment. Because most students already live in such environments teaching definable or enumerable outcomes makes less sense than helping student to be metacognitive and reflective how they manage and relate with technology.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  2. In this paper we explore the ability of educational frameworks focused on developing the entrepreneurial mindset to be used to develop students’ abilities to approach convergent problems. While there is not a single widely accepted definition of convergence, there are some general aspects noted by the NSF including: socially relevant, multidisciplinary, complex, and not being adequately addressed by current methods and practices. Convergent problems require existing disciplines to collaborate to create new knowledge, skills, and approaches in order to be appropriately addressed. We believe that there are aspects of the entrepreneurial mindset and the learning of it that can support the development of knowledge, skills, and attitudes to approach convergent problems. This is relevant because most work on convergent problems happens at the graduate level and beyond and our interest is to create experiences for undergraduates that prepare them to embark on this work after graduation. This study maps entrepreneurial mindset learning (EML) onto a framework based on prior work on convergence to identify the aspects of EML that directly support convergence work or preparation for convergence work. The existing dataset of KEEN cards is used as a proxy for existing work in this space, as well. If existing workmore »in EML can address some or all of the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed for convergent problem solving then engineering educators have a set of tools and practices that can contribute towards creating engineers who are better prepared to work on the hard problems of tomorrow.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  3. This NSF Grantees poster discusses an early phase Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (RED) project which is designed to address preparing engineering students to address large scale societal problems, the solutions of which integrate multiple disciplinary perspectives. These types of problems are often termed “convergent problems”. The idea of convergence captures how different domains of expertise contribute to solving a problem, but also the value of the network of connections between areas of knowledge that is built in undertaking such activities. While most existing efforts at convergence focus at the graduate and post-graduate levels, this project supports student development of capabilities to address convergent problems in an undergraduate disciplinary-based degree program in electrical and computer engineering. This poster discusses some of the challenges faced in implementing such learning including how to decouple engineering topics from societal concerns in ways that are relevant to undergraduate students yet retain aspects of convergence, negotiations between faculty on ways to balance discipline-specific skills with the breadth required for systemic understanding, and challenges in integrating relevant projects into courses with different faculty and instructional learning goals. One of the features of the project is that it builds on ideas from Communities of Transformation by basing activities onmore »a coherent philosophical model that guides theories of change. The project has adopted Amartya Sen’s Development as Freedom or capabilities framework as the organizing philosophy. In this model the freedom for individuals to develop capabilities they value is viewed as both the means and end of development. The overarching goal of the project is then for students to build personalized frameworks based on their value systems which allow them to later address complex, convergent problems. Framework development by individual students is supported in the project through several activities: modifying grading practices to provide detailed feedback on skills that support convergence, eliciting self-narratives from students about their pathways through courses and projects with the goal of developing reflection, and carefully integrating educational software solutions that can reduce some aspects of faculty workload which is hypothesized to enable faculty to focus efforts on integrating convergent projects throughout the curriculum. The poster will present initial results on the interventions to the program including grading, software integration, projects, and narratives. The work presented will also cover an ethnographic study of faculty practices which serves as an early-stage baseline to calibrate longer-term changes.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2023
  4. In summarizing the state of engineering education in the United States the 1918 Mann Report articulated a vision for engineering as “harmonizing the conflicting demands of technical skill and liberal education” and the engineer “not as a conglomeration of classical scholarship and mechanical skill, but as the creator of machines and the interpreter of their human significance, well qualified to increase the material rewards of human labor and to organize industry for the more intelligent development of men.” While later reports shifted the direction of degree programs, elements of the vision articulated in the Mann report remain defining characteristics of an engineering education. The focus on industry emphasizes current, contingent, and contextualized knowledge while synthesis of technical, organizational, and liberal forms of knowing and doing remains a strong theme in engineering education. Engineering, however, is not the only discipline to address such issues. Management, teaching, and medicine also educate people for practice and must continually engage with a changing world to remain relevant. In this paper it is hypothesized that degree programs in these disciplines confront, with varying degrees of success, a tension between providing the knowledge needed to act and inculcating the ability in students to act spontaneously andmore »in the right way. This paper explores this tension by looking across these disciplines to identify practices that are believed to be effective in giving students the knowledge and abilities needed to act professionally. The general approach that has emerged is having students actively address problems of varying degrees of difficulty and constraint through techniques such a problem-based learning. The broad use of problem-centered techniques in disciplines which deal with “the world as it exists now” is to develop a difficult-to-describe characteristic in students – a pervasive mode of being that allows graduates to address challenges and adapt themselves to new situations as need arises. Because this goal is difficult to articulate or measure, it is often described through analogies such as “T-shaped” engineers or the development of professional or transferable skills. Here it is proposed that this objective is achieved by synthesizing diverse lived experiences, a process which is aided by developing forms of transfer that allows experiences developed in one context to be drawn upon effectively in another. Such experiential transfer is likely different than knowledge transfer across disciplinary domains and may be enhanced by supporting the development of goal-based concepts. Furthermore, although this characteristic is often decomposed into discrete educational outcomes such as teamwork or communication, defining and assessing outcomes necessarily emphasizes skill within a domain rather than synthesis across domains. Thus outcomes-based assessment may be counter-productive to developing sought after characteristics of graduates.« less
  5. This article details the multi-year process of adding a “design thread” to our department’s electrical and computer engineering curricula. We use the conception of a “thread” to mean a sequence of courses that extend unbroken across each year of the undergraduate curriculum. The design thread includes a project-based introduction to the discipline course in the first year, a course in the second year focusing on measurement and fabrication, a course in the third year to frame technical problems in societal challenges, and culminates with our two-semester, client-driven fourth-year capstone design sequence. The impetus to create a design thread arose from preparation for an ABET visit where we identified a need for more “systems thinking” within the curriculum, particularly system decomposition and modularity; difficulty in having students make engineering evaluations of systems based on data; and students’ difficulty transferring skills in testing, measurement, and evaluation from in-class lab scenarios to more independent work on projects. We also noted that when working in teams, students operated more collectively than collaboratively. In other words, rather than using task division and specialization to carry out larger projects, students addressed all problems collectively as a group. This paper discusses the process through which faculty developedmore »a shared conception of design to enable coherent changes to courses in the four year sequence and the political and practical compromises needed to create the design thread. To develop a shared conception of design faculty explored several frameworks that emphasized multiple aspects of design. Course changes based on elements of these frameworks included introducing design representations such as block diagrams to promote systems thinking in the first year and consistently utilizing representations throughout the remainder of the four year sequence. Emphasizing modularity through representations also enabled introducing aspects of collaborative teamwork. While students are introduced broadly to elements of the design framework in their first year, later years emphasize particular aspects. The second year course focuses on skills in fabrication and performance measurement while the third year course emphasizes problem context and users, in an iterative design process. The client-based senior capstone experience integrates all seven aspects of our framework. On the political and organizational side implementing the design thread required major content changes in the department’s introductory course, and freeing up six credit-hour equivalents, one and a half courses, in the curriculum. The paper discusses how the ABET process enabled these discussions to occur, other curricular changes needed to enable the design thread to be implemented, and methods which enabled the two degree programs to align faculty motivation, distribute the workload, and understand the impact the curricular changes had on student learning.« less
  6. oday’s engineering students face a very different world than their predecessors. As engineering has adapted to a more global and interconnected economy, the issues that face today’s engineers have become more complex. In a highly networked world notions of the impact of an engineer’s actions on others, the basis for moral and ethical behavior, also become more complex. The definition of complex here captures higher-order and emergent behaviors, situations that can change rapidly, limitations to predictability, and behavior arising from interactions rather than innate to components. While ethics has remained central to engineering education and in general has retained its deontological basis, the ideas the serve as the basis for engineering ethics have changed over time and can be expected to change in the future. The fact that the future ethical challenges that engineering students will face will be distributed and complex while most engineering curricula focus on simplified systems and decisions indicates emerging challenges for effectively addressing engineering ethics within the curriculum. Frameworks that distinguish simple and complicated from complex systems—in which outcomes are more uncertain—emphasize that action becomes more important than knowledge. In other words, it is more important to do what is right, even if one’s actionsmore »are imperfect, than know what is right to do. This paper explores the intersection of engineering curricula and engineering ethics from the perspective of “right action”, that is being able in act in ways that lead to ethical outcomes. It is argued that by focusing predominately on knowledge and situating learning in academic settings engineering curricula miss opportunities for developing capabilities for action. Through this lens the opportunities to address engineering ethics in the curriculum are seen to lie predominately outside traditional coursework.« less
  7. National surveys of design courses find many similarities between the way capstone courses are structured and implemented, although more programs focus on the design process rather than creating a product. What is not as well understood are the methods and techniques used to inform students of interrelationship between product and process. This paper discusses the use of multiple formal design representations as a means to focus learning on the interrelation between design processes and products. The ability to utilize multiple representations has been demonstrated to be effective in improving student learning in math education, a discipline that can be highly process-oriented. Similarly representational fluency impacts engineering modeling. In the context of teaching design the term representation here refers to a written or graphical expression of some aspect of the design process and/or product. Ideally the set of representations would form a minimal and complete orthonormal basis set; that is the ensemble of representations captures the design in its entirety and the representations are not redundant. Since the design work of many engineers is a set of plans or diagrams (forms of representation) the complete set of representations has the potential to capture both the process of design and serve asmore »a product of design work. Over a four year period a set of representations was developed and trialed in a year-long senior capstone course in electrical and computer engineering at a small, private liberal arts institution. Using an iterative, action research approach that included student input a set of representations was developed by modifying or eliminating ineffective representations and introducing new formats based on analysis of the students’ response and success. To minimize redundancy and work towards completeness (i.e. a lean, 360° view of the process and product) representations were organized using a “design canvas” modeled after the Business Model Canvas. The Design Canvas classifies representations by actionable questions on two axes—system development and design choices— which in turn are organized hierarchically by scale. Results of the project and examples of representations for the current iteration of the Design Canvas are presented along with the Design Canvas development process.« less