Curriculum on Diversity and Ethics: Impact in an Introductory Bioengineering Course
This work-in-progress describes the impact of introducing a novel curriculum focused on the interplay of diversity and ethics in an engineering context in a large introductory bioengineering course at the University of Washington. This builds on our previous work, where we discussed curriculum design and pilot efforts of a short module [1-2]. Here we present an initial examination of the impact of the first in-depth offering of our curriculum through a new honors section of the large introductory bioengineering course.
In the honors section, we explore topics such as the importance of diversity and ethics competency in engineering; historic and current case studies of diversity-related ethical issues in bioengineering, and how historical perceptions and contexts still influence modern scientific thinking and engineering design; advocacy and representation of minorities in engineering; evidence supporting the value of inclusive teaching and diverse teams; and best practices for advocacy and representation of diverse peoples in engineering.
The first offering of the honors section was a 2-credit add-on to the introductory bioengineering course. The honors section was comprised of 12 students who were concurrently enrolled in the large introductory bioengineering course (enrollment: 93 students total). The honors students attended the same class sessions and completed all assignments as their non-honors peers. In addition, the honors students attended a weekly two-hour discussion section and completed additional assignments including weekly readings, written reflections, and a final paper on a topic of their choice related to the role of diversity/diverse identities in engineering practice.
In this work-in-progress, we will examine content of common assignments (i.e. assignments that were completed by all students) in order to compare emergent themes in work completed by two student groups:
1) Students enrolled in the introductory course only (n=81), who participated in a short module on ethics and diversity consisting of 2 class sessions, assigned readings, and one reflection assignment;
2) Students enrolled in the honors section (n=12), who participated in the module in the large course (described above) and in addition engaged in ethics and diversity topics in-depth through weekly discussion sections and multiple additional assignments.
For example, we will examine content in the final project and describe differences in design considerations for underrepresented people (e.g. people with disabilities) and emphasis on the social justice aspects of design.
Additional assessment of the impact of the honors section and how the new curriculum offered in the honors section contributed to the class as a whole will involve student self-reported data from written surveys, end-of-course student evaluations, instructor observations, and excerpts of student work. At the conference, we will share curricular materials including lectures, assignments, reading lists, and in-class discussion prompts. In addition, we will share how have thoughtfully considered student feedback and our own observations from the first offering of the honors section as we design an expanded curriculum for a future course.
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