The lack of diversity and inclusion has been a major challenge affecting engineering programs all over the United States. This problem has been persistent over the years and has been difficult to address despite considerable amount of attention, enriched conversations, and money that has been put towards addressing it. One of the reasons behind this lack of diversity could be the presence of exclusionary behaviors, such as bias and discrimination that permeate the culture of engineering. To address this “wicked” problem, a deeper understanding of current culture and of potential change strategies toward integrating inclusion and diversity is necessary.
Our larger NSF funded research project seeks to achieve this understanding through design thinking. While design thinking has been documented to successfully achieve desired outcomes for numerous other problems, its effectiveness as a tool to understand and solve the “wicked problem” of transformation of disciplinary culture related to diversity and inclusion in engineering is not yet known. This Work-in-Progress paper will address the effectiveness of using a design thinking approach by answering the research question: How did stakeholder participants perceive the impact of design sessions on their understanding and value of diversity and inclusion in the professional formation of biomedical engineers?
To address this research question, our research team is coordinating six design sessions within each of two engineering schools: Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) and Biomedical Engineering (BME) at a large Midwest University. Currently, we have completed the initial phases of the design sessions in the BME school, and hence this paper focuses on insights from preliminary data analysis of BME Design sessions. BME design sessions were conducted with 15 key stakeholders from the program including students, faculty, staff and administrators. Each of the six design session was two hours long. The research team facilitated the inspiration and ideation phase of the design thinking process throughout. Facilitation involved providing prompts and activities to guide the stakeholders through the design thinking processes of problem identification, problem scoping, and prototype solution generation related to diversity and inclusion within the school culture.
A mixed-methods approach involving both qualitative and quantitative data analysis is being used to evaluate the efficacy of design thinking as a tool to address diversity and inclusion in professional formation of engineers. Artifacts such as journey maps, culture maps, and design notebooks generated by our stakeholders throughout the design sessions will be qualitatively analyzed to evaluate the role and effectiveness of design thinking in shaping a more diverse and inclusive culture within BME and, eventually ECE. Following the design sessions, participants were interviewed one-on-one to understand how their thoughts about diversity and inclusion in professional formation of biomedical engineers may have changed, and to gather participants’ self-assessment of the design process. Coupled with the interviews, an online survey was administered to assess the participants’ ranking of the solutions generated at the conclusion design sessions in terms of their novelty, importance and feasibility for implementation within their school. This Work-in-Progress paper will discuss relevant findings from initial quantitative analyses of the data collected from the post-design session surveys and is an interim report evaluating participants’ perceptions of the impact of these design sessions on their understanding of diversity and inclusion in professional formation of biomedical engineers.
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper?
Visit the ASEE document repository at
for more tools and easy citations.