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  1. In recent years, large numbers of international students are attending engineering schools in the US; however, more could be done by the schools to support the unique challenges these students face. This study analyzes five semi-structured interviews with international electrical and computer engineering students at Purdue University to identify the unique challenges they face due to their international status, how they persist despite the challenges, and what engineering schools can do to better support them and all students given these findings. Using a framework of student resistance, the theoretical thematic analysis found that international engineering students can struggle with languagemore »barriers and social isolation, and that these challenges are often made invisible in the environment of the school. These students most commonly persist by adapting or conforming to the domestic environment, either individually or collectively; they exhibit very few instances of resistance by our chosen definition. To better support international students, we recommend that engineering schools implement more active learning, collaborative learning, and multicultural and group communication education. These initiatives would also improve the experiences and education of all students, including underrepresented students. This article contributes to discussions about the definition and usage of student resistance as a framework for education research.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023
  2. 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 processmore »(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 and 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
  3. 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 interviewsmore »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.« less
  4. As part of National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored Research in the Formation of Engineers (RFE), we have been focusing on inclusive teaching strategies for engineering professors. Now, in the presence of a pandemic and protests for racial justice in America, underrepresented students are facing unprecedented challenges as they navigate new situations of remote learning. This paper describes inclusive teaching strategies in the current context of isolating situations. Where possible, we point to examples of some specific virtual tools that instructors can use in their remote learning courses.
  5. In this work-in-progress paper, we present a study design for exploring strategies to involve engineering faculty in inclusive teaching practices, which are practices that integrate informal mentoring strategies into everyday communication with students in efforts to improve their interest, capacity, and belongingness in engineering. As part of a larger NSF-funded study on the interactions of engineering professional formation with diversity and inclusion, we will use semi-structured interviews to investigate an electrical and computer engineering (ECE) faculty’s intention to implement inclusive teaching practices, using Fishbein and Ajzen’s reasoned action model to define intention. The interviews will be focused around an inclusivemore »teaching “tip sheet” that was recently distributed to the ECE faculty. These interviews will allow us to characterize factors that influence the development of such an intention within the context of an engineering department, in order to make recommendations for administration.« less
  6. Three broad and enduring issues have been identified in the professional formation of engineers: 1) the gap between what students learn in universities and what they practice upon graduation; 2) the limiting perception that engineering is solely technical, math, and theory-oriented; and 3) the lack of diversity (e.g., representation of a wide range of people, thought, and approaches toward engineering) and lack of inclusion (e.g., belonging and incorporating different perspectives, values, and ways of thinking and being in engineering) in many engineering programs. Although these are not new challenges in professional formation, these issues are highly complex, interconnected, and notmore »amenable to simple solution. That is, they are “wicked” problems, which can be best understood and mitigated through design thinking, a human-centered approach based on empathy, ideation, and experimentation, as it is a useful perspective for addressing complex and ambiguous issues. Thus, this NSF-funded RFE study utilizes a design thinking approach and research activities to explore foundational understandings of formation and diversity and inclusion in engineering while concurrently addressing three project objectives: 1) To better prepare engineers for today’s workforce; 2) To broaden understandings of engineering practice as both social and technical; and 3) To create and sustain more diverse and inclusionary engineering programs. In this paper, we provide an overview of the multi-year project and discuss emerging findings and key outcomes from across all phases of the project. Specifically, we will showcase how the research has identified the concurrent ways that understandings of diversity and inclusion are impacted significantly by the local contexts (and cultures) of each department while being compounded by the larger College/University/discipline-wide understandings of who is an engineer and what skills legitimize the identity of “an engineer.”« less
  7. 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 linkedmore »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 assumptions 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
  8. 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 traditionalmore »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, 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
  9. 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 themore »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.« less