This project sponsors a workshop to advance a research agenda in engineering epistemologies, one of the five areas identified in a 2005 NSF sponsored workshop on engineering education research that has received relatively little attention. The interdisciplinary conference will draw together thinkers from a variety of disciplines and educational systems to identify directions for future study.

The broader significance and importance of this project lies in creating a robust research network that crosses disciplinary boundaries and connects members of historically different communities. The long-term results of the workshop and the research arising from it can have a potentially broad impact on how engineering is taught.

Project Report

Principal Investigator: Korte, Russell Intellectual Merit As a professional engineer or engineering educator, each of us conducts our research and teaching based on an underlying set of beliefs about engineering and education. Our beliefs guide many of our decisions and subsequent behaviors, therefore it is essential to critically examine our beliefs and strengthen our understanding of the work we do. Making well-reasoned decisions based on sound principles is one of the benefits of philosophical inquiry. The current controversy around the education of engineers highlights the conflicts between different beliefs regarding such difficult questions as: What is engineering? And what is the best way to educate students aspiring to become engineers? This workshop is part of a long-running series of events designed to uncover and examine the underlying assumptions, beliefs, and values underpinning our understanding of engineering and engineering education. We gathered a group of highly interested engineering educators, along with four well-respected professors known for their philosophical inquiry into engineering. The discussion brought to light many contested beliefs and perspectives indicating the diverse views on the topics of engineering and engineering education. Findings Three main views of engineering education emerged from the lively discussions encompassing the diverse beliefs of participants. These views were: (a) engineering education should be about preparing students to be masters of science, math, and engineering science, (b) engineering education should be about preparing students for the workplace and practice of engineering, and (c) engineering education should embrace a liberal education view that recognizes the importance of providing 18-22 year olds with a broad, foundational education. These views point to significantly different outcomes and reflect different assumptions, beliefs, and values. Secondary outcomes suggested that participants wanted to continue the conversation and learn to improve their skills at forming coherent and consistent arguments through philosophical reasoning. Broader impact This effort, and subsequent efforts, will further the development of interdisciplinary perspectives of engineering and education for the purpose of improving our understanding of engineering and education. This work has brought together an international group of scholars from Australia, Sweden, England, Ireland, and the United States and draws upon various disciplines such as science, technology, engineering, philosophy, education, history, rhetoric, and communications.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Engineering Education and Centers (EEC)
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Richard N. Smith
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University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
United States
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