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A Snapshot of How ‘Social’ Considerations Are Currently Being Interpreted and Addressed Within Engineering Education and Accreditation

Patricia Xavier Orcid Logo, Natalie Wint, Gabrielle Orbaek White

Philosophy of Engineering and Technology, Volume: 42, Pages: 65 - 92

Swansea University Authors: Patricia Xavier Orcid Logo, Natalie Wint, Gabrielle Orbaek White

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Abstract

The bodies responsible for the accreditation of engineering degree schemes are placing increasing emphasis on the need for students to demonstrate an awareness of the social context in which engineering is practiced. As a result, a growing number of engineering educators will soon find themselves on...

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Published in: Philosophy of Engineering and Technology
ISBN: 9783031116001 9783031116018
ISSN: 1879-7202 1879-7210
Published: Cham Springer International Publishing 2023
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa62650
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Abstract: The bodies responsible for the accreditation of engineering degree schemes are placing increasing emphasis on the need for students to demonstrate an awareness of the social context in which engineering is practiced. As a result, a growing number of engineering educators will soon find themselves on a journey towards interpreting what ‘social’ means in the context of engineering education. This chapter aims to provide a contemporary snapshot of the status of this journey. Semi-structured interviews were used to provide information about (1) how educators within UK higher education interpret ‘social’ within the context of engineering education (2) areas within courses and programs where ‘social’ has been incorporated (3) the external (accreditation bodies) and internal (academic institutions) factors that influence the process involved. Participants included individuals engaged in incorporating social aspects into engineering degree schemes and/or with the accreditation process. They ranged from module coordinators to those involved in creating the latest version of learning outcomes on behalf of the Engineering Council in the UK. Data underwent thematic and semantic analysis and drew upon a framework that lays out the contending modes of engineering education and strategies for curriculum change. Findings indicate that ‘social’ has a wide variety of meanings and implications within the context of engineering education. Although there was agreement that the topic needed to be further embedded, there was also some recognition that there was a lack of knowledge about the tools, language and frameworks that engineers can use to incorporate it into the curriculum. Participants also acknowledged the need to draw upon expertise from the humanities and social sciences. The lack of consistent support at a management level was reflected by the number of isolated attempts at including ‘social’ elements. Strong institutional support and culture was deemed necessary for the use of integrated approaches involving contextualized project-based learning and ‘re-build’ strategies. Accreditation was generally thought to enable the incorporation of ‘social’, but concerns were raised regarding the inconsistencies in the approach taken by different Professional Engineering Institutions, as well as individual accreditation committee members. Some participants discussed feeling isolated and invisible during their attempts to introduce social content into an environment in which their views were not validated. Successfully enacted strategies for curriculum change management, as well as opportunities for those interested in the incorporation of ‘social’ within engineering education, are discussed.
Keywords: Accreditation; Engineering education; Social responsibility; Social context; Engineering ethics; Engineering identity
College: Faculty of Science and Engineering
Start Page: 65
End Page: 92