Practicing engineers need to be able to balance the complex interplays that exist between the social and technical dimensions of contextualized, open-ended problems. Engineers often engage in problem definition while interacting with non-engineering stakeholders. Yet in undergraduate engineering education, engineering course work often emphasizes the technical at the expense of the social, and rarely provides students the opportunity to solve open-ended problems. This paper describes the rationale and process for developing an instrument to measuring students’ perspective changes in sociotechnical thinking. That instrument is motivated by research that examines the importance of embedding sociotechnical thinking, or the interplay between relevant social and technical factors in the problem to be solved, into the engineering curriculum.
Jon A. Leydens is an associate professor in the Division of Liberal Arts and International Studies at Colorado
School of Mines, USA, where he has been since 1997. Research and teaching interests include
communication, social justice, and engineering education. Dr. Leydens is co-author of Engineering and
Sustainable Community Development (Morgan and Claypool, 2010) and editor of Sociotechnical Communication
in Engineering (Routledge, 2014). Dr. Leydens won the James F. Lufkin Award for the
best conference paper—on the intersections between professional communication research and social justice—
at the 2012 International Professional Communication Conference. In 2015, he won the Ronald S.
Blicq Award for Distinction in Technical Communication Education from the Professional Communication
Society of the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). His current research focuses
on rendering visible and integrating the social justice dimensions inherent in three components of the
engineering curriculum—in engineering sciences, engineering design, and humanities and social science
courses. That research, conducted with co-author Juan C. Lucena, culminated in Engineering Justice:
Transforming Engineering Education and Practice (Wiley-IEEE Press, 2017).
Kathryn Johnson is an Associate Professor at the Colorado School of Mines in the Department of Electrical Engineering and is Jointly Appointed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s National Wind Technology Center. In 2011, she was a visiting researcher at Aalborg University in Denmark, where she collaborated on wind turbine control research and experienced Aalborg’s Problem-Based Learning method. She has researched wind turbine control systems since 2002, with numerous projects related to reducing turbine loads and increasing energy capture. She has applied experiential learning techniques in several wind energy and control systems classes and began engineering education research related to social justice in control systems engineering in 2014.
Stephanie Claussen is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering at San Francisco State University. She previously spent eight years as a Teaching Professor in the Engineering, Design, and Society Division and the Electrical Engineering Departmen
Dr. Jenifer Blacklock focuses on project-based learning and developing hands-on curriculum to create strong science and engineering foundations.
Barbara Moskal is a research professor in the College of Education at Texas Tech University. She is also a Senior Associate Editor for the Journal of Engineering Education.
Olivia Cordova is a graduating senior in Electrical Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines. As a member of the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers and Society of Women Engineers, she is passionate about organizing and participating in outreach for the youth in STEM, especially young girls. Technically, she studies power systems analysis and renewable energy integration. This technical background has allowed her to realize the disconnection between social and technical aspects of engineering. Through this realization, she has been able to participate in research regarding sociotechnical integration in engineering education.
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper? Visit the ASEE document repository at peer.asee.org for more tools and easy citations.