Shifting Departmental Culture to Re-Situate Learning
This paper presents our initial efforts in revolutionizing the undergraduate learning environment in the School of Chemical, Biological, and Environmental Engineering at Oregon State University (CBEE), with particular emphasis directed toward the use of base-line, qualitative data to inform future project activities. While we currently provide students many innovative learning opportunities, we are concerned that the extent to which these efforts are marginalized and isolated may deter from their influence. To address this issue, we plan to create a holistic, inclusive, professionally-based learning environment woven through both curricular requirements and co-curricular opportunities for students. We specifically target social inequality by seeking to create engineering educational systems and interpersonal interactions that are professionally and personally life-affirming for all people across their differences. We seek to catalyze change through construction of a culture of inclusion and a shift in our learning environments from sequestered activities to realistic, consequential work. This requires a fundamental change in the nature of department culture (values, norms and structure).
Project activities include: (1) curricular redesign of 9 core sophomore- and junior-level studio classes to include more realistic, consequential work leveraging research-based pedagogies like problem-based learning and model-eliciting activities; (2) growing faculty and students’ capacity to engage issues of inclusivity by shifting their cognitive and affective knowledge of power and privilege; (3) planning and implementing student professional development pods, longitudinally mixed student teams where students help one another understand the university experience and how it relates to professional practice; and (4) implementing formal changes in governing policies and procedures within CBEE.
This work is supported by the National Science Foundation pilot program Revolutionizing Engineering Departments (RED) that is aligned with the NSF Engineering (ENG) Directorate’s multi-year initiative, the Professional Formation of Engineers, to create and support an innovative and inclusive engineering profession for the 21st Century.
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