Energy is a foundational topic across engineering disciplines; however, energy concepts are typically introduced in a disjointed fashion across multiple courses. Students often have difficulty making connections across disciplines that leverage their own personal funds of knowledge. For example, many students often fail to connect their personal experience with technology (e.g. home appliances) with the engineering concepts (e.g. 1st law of thermodynamics) introduced in class. We are exploring a reconceived approach for introducing students to these important concepts. The authors, with expertise in four different engineering disciplines, recognize that many discourses in engineering exist in tension with each other. The context in which we teach energy is too often narrowly defined and framed by both hegemonic disciplinary literacies (i.e., mechanical engineers tend to focus heavily on steam tables) and dominant cultural perspectives (i.e., White, male, colonial, and heteronormative). Our objective is to redefine the teaching and learning of energy in engineering to recognize the broad diversity that exists within the world around energy. This paper, submitted as a work in progress, describes our vision for a new course that brings together energy concepts from traditional middle year courses such as thermodynamics and circuits. We propose to use culturally sustaining pedagogies (CSPs) to provide all students with a stronger foundation and a broader perspective. CSPs seek to value and cultivate the cultural and social pluralism that creates a democratic educational experience and have been shown to increase student engagement and improve student outcomes in K-12 education. We hypothesize that the use of CSPs will help with breaking down the false dichotomy of engineering problems as strictly “social” or “technical.” In this paper, we briefly review approaches taken to teach energy in engineering. We then examine CSPs and make the case for how they might be used within engineering. We discuss our preliminary ideas for the course itself. The goal of this paper is to stimulate discussion within the ASEE community to improve course effectiveness in enhancing student learning. This project is part of a larger overall effort at [University] to integrate social justice themes across the curriculum of a new general engineering department. This paper will present our progress towards instantiating in the classroom the broader vision laid out for our program.
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