Engineering and Social Justice
178 pages

Vous pourrez modifier la taille du texte de cet ouvrage

Engineering and Social Justice

Obtenez un accès à la bibliothèque pour le consulter en ligne
En savoir plus
178 pages

Vous pourrez modifier la taille du texte de cet ouvrage

Obtenez un accès à la bibliothèque pour le consulter en ligne
En savoir plus


This book is aimed at engineering academics worldwide, who are attempting to bring social justice into their work and practice, or who would like to but don't know where to start. This is the first book dedicated specifically to University professionals on Engineering and Social Justice, an emerging and exciting area of research and practice. An international team of multidisciplinary authors share their insights and invite and inspire us to reformulate the way we work. Each chapter is based on research and yet presents the outcomes of scholarly studies in a user oriented style. We look at all three areas of an engineering academic's professional role: research, teaching and community engagement. Some of our team have created classes which help students think through their role as engineering practitioners in society. Others are focusing their research on outcomes that are socially just and for client groups who are marginalized and powerless. Yet others are consciously engaging local community groups and exploring ways in which the University might 'serve' communities at home and globally from a post-development perspective. We are additionally concerned with the student cohort and who has access to engineering studies. We take a broad social and ecological justice perspective to critique existing and explore alternative practices. This book is a handbook for any engineering academic, who wishes to develop engineering graduates as well as technologies and practices that are non-oppressive, equitable and engaged. It is also an essential reader for anyone studying in this interdisciplinary juncture of social science and engineering. Scholars using a critical theoretical lens on engineering practice and education, from Science and Technology Studies, History and Philosophy of Engineering, Engineering and Science Education will find this text invaluable.



Publié par
Date de parution 15 janvier 2012
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781612491578
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,1650€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Purdue University Press West Lafayette, Indiana
Copyright 2012 by Purdue University. All rights reserved.
Printed in the United States of America.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Engineering and social justice : in the university and beyond / [edited by] Caroline Baillie, Alice L. Pawley, and Donna Riley.       p. cm.   Includes bibliographical references and index.   ISBN 978-1-55753-606-8 (pbk.) -- ISBN 978-1-61249-156-1 (epdf) -- ISBN 978-1-61249-157-8 (epub) 1. Engineering ethics. 2. Engineering--Social aspects. 3. Engineering--Study and teaching. I. Baillie, Caroline. II. Pawley, Alice. III. Riley, Donna (Donna M.)   TA157.E546 2012   174’.962--dc23
Cover image: Copyright 2011 Eric Feinblatt for Waste for Life.
Reflections on engineering and social justice in teaching, learning, and research
Karl A. Smith
In the university and beyond
Caroline Baillie, Alice L. Pawley, and Donna Riley
Teaching and learning: Bringing social justice into the engineering classroom
Chapter 1
Developing human-centered design practices and perspectives through service-learning
Monica E. Cardella, Carla B. Zoltowski, and William C. Oakes
Chapter 2
An ethnographic study of social justice themes in engineering education
George D. Ricco and Matthew W. Ohland
Research: Developing projects and outcomes that promote social justice
Chapter 3
What counts as “engineering”: Toward a redefinition
Alice L. Pawley
Chapter 4
Waste for life: Socially just materials research
Caroline Baillie
Chapter 5
Turbulent fluid mechanics, high speed weapons, and the story of the Earth
George Catalano
Engagement: Serving local and global communities
Chapter 6
Community colleges, engineering, and social justice
Lisa A. McLoughlin
Chapter 7
Low socioeconomic status individuals: An invisible minority in engineering
Michele L Strutz, Marisa K. Orr, and Matthew W. Ohland
Chapter 8
Viewing access and persistence in engineering through a socioeconomic lens
Matthew W. Ohland, Marisa K. Orr, Valerie Lundy-Wagner, Cindy P. Veenstra, and Russell A. Long
Chapter 9
An alternative tour of Ford Hall: Service toward education and transformation
Donna Riley
Karl A. Smith
Engineering and engineering education in the United States have undergone tremendous changes since Thomas Jefferson signed the legislation establishing The United States Military Academy in 1802. Colonel Sylvanus Thayer served as Superintendent from l8l7 to l833 and made civil engineering the foundation of the curriculum. The first civilian engineering school, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), opened in 1824 and granted the first engineering degrees in 1825. Many of the changes are documented in a long series of reports conducted under the auspices of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the American Society for Engineering Education, and the National Academy of Engineering. An early, notable report was the 1918 Mann Report, and the most recent is the 2009 Jamieson/Lohmann Report. Until recently these reports focused primarily on the curriculum. The Jamieson/Lohmann report focuses on student learning outcomes and a scholarly approach on the part of faculty.
Changes in engineering and engineering education are driven in part by the fundamental nature of engineering that is advancing the state-of-the-art through progressive refinement (Koen, 2003) and the evolutionary nature of technology (Arthur, 2009; Kelly, 2010). Technology, according to Arthur (2009), is defined by three principal features:
1.   A means to fulfill a human purpose
2.   An assemblage of practices and components
3.   The entire collection of devices and engineering practices available to a culture
The question of purpose, especially whose purpose and who gets to choose, is solidly located in the engineering and social justice realm.
Changes are also driven by broader technological, social, political, economic, environmental, global, and other influences. Some current drivers for change are documented in the National Academy of Engineering Grand Challenges report (NAE, 2008) and include:
•   Make solar energy economical
•   Provide energy from fusion
•   Develop carbon sequestration methods
•   Manage the nitrogen cycle
•   Provide access to clean water
•   Restore and improve urban infrastructure
•   Advance health informatics
•   Engineer better medicines
•   Reverse-engineer the brain
•   Prevent nuclear terror
•   Secure cyberspace
•   Enhance virtual reality
•   Advance personalized learning
•   Engineer the tools of scientific discovery
Conspicuously missing from this list is an emphasis on engineering and social justice. While nearly 200 years have passed since the first engineering degrees were granted in the United States, there are still huge discrepancies among groups and individuals who are served by and benefit from engineering and technological developments, which have provided for some clean water and air, safer products (automobiles, for example), and better services. This book is an important contribution in raising awareness and increasing emphasis on social justice in engineering. As noted by the editors, “we see huge potential in engineering to serve society—all of society.”
The adoption of ABET Engineering Criteria 2000, which embraced student learning outcomes, has dramatically changed engineering education (Lattuca, Terenzini, & Volkwein, 2006); however, the ABET a-k outcomes only vaguely emphasize social justice. Elements of the Desired Attributes of a Global Engineer (Lewis, 1997) list began to embrace social justice more directly.
•   A multidisciplinary, systems perspective, along with a product focus
•   A basic understanding of the context in which engineering is practiced, including:
º      Customer and societal needs and concerns
º      Economics and finance
º      The environment and its protection
º      The history of technology and society
•   An awareness of the boundaries of one’s knowledge, along with an appreciation for other areas of knowledge and their interrelatedness with one’s own expertise
•   An awareness of and strong appreciation for other cultures and their diversity, their distinctiveness, and their inherent value
•   A strong commitment to team work, including extensive experience with and understanding of team dynamics
•   Good communication skills, including written, verbal, graphic, and listening
•   High ethical standards (honesty, sense of personal and social responsibility, fairness, etc)
•   An ability to think both critically and creatively, in both independent and cooperative modes
•   Flexibility: the ability and willingness to adapt to rapid and/or major change
•   Curiosity and the accompanying drive to learn continuously throughout one’s career
•   An ability to impart knowledge to others
The United States has been guided recently by calls for increasing competitive advantage, most prominently in the National Academies’ report Rising Above the Gathering Storm (National Academy of Sciences, 2005), which cautioned: “Without a renewed effort to bolster the foundations of our competitiveness, we can expect to lose our privileged position.” The follow-up report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5 , (National Academy of Sciences, 2010) reinforces this claim and highlights a sense of extreme urgency.
I argue in a recent chapter, “Preparing Students for an Interdependent World: Role of Cooperation and Social Interdependence Theory” (Smith, 2011), for increasing emphasis on global collaborative advantage and developing students’ knowledge, skills, and habits of mind that support developing collaborative approaches to challenges and opportunities. The argument is based on social interdependence theory and Lynn and Salzman’s (2006, 2007) work on collaborative advantage. Lynn and Salzman argue that globalization is permeating the US economy at multiple levels, and therefore, continued support of “technonationalism” is not in our best interest. They claim in their 2006 Issues in Science and Technology article, “Collaborative Advantage,” that:
The United States should move away from an almost certainly futile attempt to maintain dominance and toward an approach in which leadership comes from developing and brokering mutual gains among equal partners. . . . Such “collaborative advantage,” as we call it, comes not from self-sufficiency or maintaining a monopoly on advanced technology, but from being a valued collaborator at various levels in the international system of technology development. ( p. 76 )
Among their three goals for the United States, they argue that “the United States needs to develop a science and technology education system that teaches collaborative competencies rather than just technical knowledge and skills” ( p. 81 ). Their research indicates that cross-boundary skills (working across disciplinary, organizational, cultural, and time/distance boundaries) are needed more than technical skills. Lynn and Salzman (2007) note that “In collaborative advantage, mutual gain comes from the strength of interdependencies” ( p. 13 ).
One place where cooperation and competition have enormous influence on students in engineering programs is in grading systems, which until recently have been primarily competitive (norm-referenced) grading systems. Grave concerns about justice emerge when we examine grading systems (Deutsch, 1979, 1985; Smith, 1986, 1998). Several researchers have challenged the default grading-on-the-curve (norm-referenced) system:
It is not a symbol of rigor to have grades fall into a “normal” distribution; rather, it is a symbol of failure—failure to teach well, to test well, and to have any influence at all of the intellectual lives of students. (Milton, Pollio, & Eison, 1986, p. 225)
Additionally, Ben Bloom, famous for many things, including “Bloom’s Taxonomy,” states:
If we are effective in our instruction, the distribution of achievement should be very different from the normal curve. In fact, we may even insist that our educational efforts have been unsuccessful to the extent that the distribution of achievement approximates the normal distribution. (Bloom, Madaus, & Hastings, 1981, p. 52 )
Engineering faculty are slowly changing from norm-referenced to criterion-referenced grading systems (Astin, 1993; DeAngelo, Hurtado, Pryor, Kelly, & Santos, 2009), and it is in this spirit of challenging assumptions and prevailing norms that the authors of Engineering and social justice: In the university and beyond compel us to think more deeply about who is in our classes (and who is not) and whose interests are being served, or as Ursula Franklin asks of any engineering project, “who benefits and who pays?”
The dismal progress in advancing the state-of-the-art of thinking and action on engineering and social justice will require modern approaches, such as embracing complexity theory and complex adaptive systems (Axelrod & Cohen, 2001; Miller & Page, 2007). Page (2009) claims that a “system can be considered complex if its agents meet four qualifications: diversity, connection, interdependence, and adaptation” ( p. 4 ). Furthermore, he argues that “the attributes of interdependence, connectedness, diversity, and adaptation and learning generate complexity” ( p. 10 ). In terms of diversity, Page (2007) argues that “progress depends as much on our collective differences as it does on our individual IQ scores” (p. xx).
I encourage you to immerse yourself in the stories, narratives, claims, arguments, and evidence in Engineering and social justice: In the university and beyond , and I am hopeful that together we can embrace our interdependences and help engineering make for a more just world.
Arthur, W. B. (2009). The nature of technology: What is it and how it evolves. New York: Free Press.
Astin, A. W. (1993). Engineering outcomes. ASEE PRISM, 3 (1), 27-30.
Axelrod, R., & Cohen, M. D. (2001). Harnessing complexity: Organizational implications of a scientific frontier. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Bloom, B. S., Madaus, G. F., & Hastings, J. T. (1981). Evaluation to improve learning. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
DeAngelo, L., Hurtado, S., Pryor, J. H., Kelly, K. R., & Santos, J. L. (2009). The American college teacher: National norms for the 2007-2008 HERI faculty survey. Los Angeles, CA: Higher Education Research Institute, UCLA.
Deutsch, M. (1979). Education and distributive justice: Some reflections on grading systems. American Psychologist, 34, 391-401.
Deutsch, M. (1985). Distributive justice: A social-psychological perspective. New Haven, CT: Yale U Press.
Jamieson, L. H., & Lohmann, J. R. (2009). Creating a culture for scholarly and systematic innovation in engineering education: Ensuring U.S. engineering has the right people with the right talent for a global society. Washington, DC: American Society for Engineering Education.
Kelly, K. (2010). What technology wants. New York: Viking.
Koen, B. V. (2003). Discussion of the method. New York: Oxford University Press.
Lattuca, L. R., Terenzini, P. T., & Volkwein, J. F. (2006). Engineering change: A study of the impact of EC2000 . Washington, DC: ABET.
Lewis, C. S. 1997. A Manifesto for Global Engineering Education, Summary Report of the Engineering Futures Conference, January 22-23, 1997. The Boeing Company & Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Lynn, L., & Salzman, H. (2006). Collaborative advantage: New horizons for a flat world. Issues in Science and Technology, 22 (2), 74-82.
Lynn, L., & Salzman, H. (2007). The real global technology challenge. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 39 (4), 8-13.
Mann, C. R. (1918). A study of engineering education. Bulletin No. 11 (often referred to as the “Mann Report”). The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Miller, J., & Page, S. E. (2007). Complex adaptive systems: An introduction to computational models of social life . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Milton, O., Pollio, H. R., and Eison, J. A. (1986). Making sense of college grades. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
National Academy of Engineering. (2008). Grand challenges for engineering. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
National Academy of Sciences. (2005). Rising Above The Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century: An Agenda for American Science and Technology, National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
National Academy of Sciences. (2010). Rising Above the Gathering Storm, Revisited: Rapidly Approaching Category 5. By Members of the 2005 “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” Committee; Prepared for the Presidents of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.
Page, S. E. (2007). The difference: How the power of diversity creates better groups, teams, schools, and societies . Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Page, S. E. (2009). Understanding complexity. The Great Courses. Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company.
Smith, K. A., Grading and distributive justice. (1986). In L. P. Grayson & J. M. Biedenbach (Eds.), Proceedings Sixteenth Annual Frontiers in Education Conference , IEEE/ASEE. Arlington, TX.
Smith, K. A. (1998). Grading cooperative projects. In R. S. Anderson & B. W. Speck (Eds.), Changing the way we grade student performance: Classroom assessment and the new learning paradigm. New Directions for Teaching and Learning 74, 59-67. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Smith, K. A. (2011). Preparing students for an interdependent world: Role of Cooperation and social interdependence theory. In J. Cooper and P. Robinson (Eds.), Small group learning in higher education: Research and practice. Stillwater, OK: New Forums Press.
Caroline Baillie, Alice L. Pawley, and Donna Riley
Many of us who have had the occasion to describe to others the work we do at the intersection of engineering and social justice have often received a surprised response: “Oh! I hadn’t thought of those two as related before.” Or more bluntly, “Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?” Why is engineering seen by so many as either having nothing to do with justice, or worse, as related in some way to injustice? Perhaps it is not surprising when the daily news brings stories of unnatural disasters, of human and ecological tragedy facilitated by technological failure, or even by technological successes implemented exactly as intended.
The team of editors who have put this book together sees huge potential in engineering to serve society—all of society, globally and locally, and in more responsible and respectful ways than in the past. However, in order to accomplish this in an increasingly just and equitable way through mode and content, practice and process, we need not only to review our own thoughts and beliefs about the purpose and practice of engineering, but also systematically change things about the profession itself.
We recognize that engineering is not the only profession that needs to make these transformations in order to do work in right relationship with local and global communities. However, as the authors of this book speak as and to engineers, and because many of us directly educate future engineers, it is this profession that we aim to transform through our work. We hope by being transparent and even self-critical about our attempts to do so, we may inspire other engineers as well as other professionals to reflect on these issues in their own work.
All three of the editors and indeed all contributors to this volume are academics—professors, postdoctoral scholars, and doctoral students—writing what is intended to be a user guide for others interested in enhancing social justice through their engineering teaching, research, and service. We know that the use of the term “guide” is problematic in that it suggests we know the way forward. We do not. We have our own views and positions on our journeys toward social justice. However, what we do have is a critical facilitative approach, by which we hope to enable others to ask questions, question assumptions, and begin conversations. All editors and authors in this book have different styles and disciplinary approaches and are concerned about our profession for a variety of reasons. Some of us have been working on social justice in engineering for many years; others of us are in the early stages of exploring how we might bring together engineering and social justice in our research, teaching, or service. We are very aware that we do not represent well the diversity in ways of knowing and being that exist in the world, but we are evermore encouraging the input of those who do. In this growing movement, there is space for all kinds of folks at different points of this process, including those whose total experience of doing engineering and social justice has been to pick up this book.
The three editors who came together to frame and focus the work also have different backgrounds and experiences. We begin with a short narrative from each of us describing how we came to work on a book like this, and how we situate ourselves in relation to engineering and social justice.
In 2003 I arrived in Canada to take up a new job at Queens University. Within weeks of my arrival, I started to question why it was that everyone told me my materials engineering research should have as its main goal “economic benefit for Canada.” I found that odd, as I thought at that time my main goal was to reduce environmental impact. Then I began to realize that no one had ever asked me who was intended to benefit from my work; this was assumed. Canada? One homogeneous group of people? I started to listen to the words of Ursula Franklin, an emeritus professor at the University of Toronto, who asks of any engineering project: “Who benefits and who pays?” Sustainability was the new buzzword—and although we knew that this meant considering economic, environmental, and social impact, for the first time I noticed that the latter of these three was often ignored. I started to ask the question: What would engineering look like if we put the “social” first? What would engineering look like if we framed it around social justice? I began to research this question—asking political economists, historians, and sociologists what they thought. I tentatively ran a conference on “Engineering and Social Justice” in 2004, which launched the “Engineering Social Justice, and Peace Network” ( ) that recently hosted its seventh annual conference in Colombia. The network has grown in number and disciplinary complexity, working at the juncture between education, research, and practice. This book has emerged out of the network and a perceived need to support the growing number of engineering academics interested in social justice.
I was a graduate student in industrial engineering who was trying to use psychological theories based on industrial populations to understand how to redesign engineering education to be more effective. My departmental seminars were organized around the ideas of making workers work more efficiently through designing their jobs in different ways—to make workers feel like they had more control over their work, so that they then had increased motivation to work, and so on. I remember a sense of disquiet about engineers—likened unto managers—”tricking” workers (not engineers) into working harder, as the workers themselves did not benefit significantly more from their increased labour, while the corporation itself did.
I remember talking about these issues with my mom in the kitchen, and her pulling out a piece of paper to describe to me different kinds of research. She talked about basic research, where physical, natural, and social scientists try to figure out how the world works. She described applied research as the realm of engineers, taking the insights gained in basic research and figuring out how to use them to “do stuff.” These two ideas were familiar to me. But then she talked about critical research, done by people who applied particular theories about the world to the critique of both basic and applied research, to remind all of us to ask ourselves whether these outcomes were where we wanted society to go and why. I had never heard of critical research before, but I now see my work as critical research, and I find myself explaining to my engineering colleagues both what that is and what value that brings to engineering research as a field. Since then I took a women’s studies class focused on critiques of science and technology, and I learned that the scientific and engineering methods I had been taught were not the only ways of viewing the world and in contrast actually oppressed others’ alternative views. Additionally, I came across Donna Riley’s paper on using liberative pedagogies in an engineering thermodynamics course, which made me think the feminist theory I was learning and my passion for engineering education could be combined. I met Caroline through an invitation initiated because of my work describing feminist approaches to engineering education with the Society of Women Engineers, and I learned of her work connecting engineers with theater. Upon meeting Donna at a conference, she hooked me into a community exploring engineering and social justice issues, through which I reconnected with Caroline. It has been a roller-coaster since to keep up with them, and I am honored to undertake this book with them.
I was drawn to work on social justice issues as a high school student. I attended a student summit on nuclear disarmament, wrote my senator about US aggression in Central America, and worked the press room at the first all-city youth AIDS awareness dance in my hometown. I started an environmental club at my high school, and it was this interest that I wanted to pursue in college. My father, being an engineer, steered me toward engineering, and I pursued courses and cocurricular activities in environmental studies and science, technology, and public policy. Gender discrimination and gender violence on my campus drew my attention both within and outside of engineering, and I worked as an activist on LGBTQ issues. I struggled all along to put my activist work together with my academic work, but even in the environmental area, where one might expect a close connection, my campus activism and my research and coursework did not intersect, and could not, lest the scientific research be discredited as “political.” In graduate school I worked on risk assessment and risk communication, which was a hair’s breadth away and at the same time miles away from my street outreach on needle exchange and harm reduction with injection drug users. Ultimately it was coming to the work of teaching that enabled me to connect engineering and social justice. I employed critical, radical, feminist, and postcolonial pedagogies in my approach to engineering education. Through this work I first met George Catalano, who introduced me to a group of scholars already networking around engineering, social justice, and peace. Finding this community of kindred spirits has been an amazing source of support and encouragement, and our collaborations have brought renewal and a particular sense of purpose to my professional life.
A subset of the authors of the work in this book came together around the topic of engineering and social justice in a workshop held at Purdue University in the fall of 2009. Additional authors who have participated to varying degrees in the Engineering, Social Justice, and Peace Network were invited to create a balance in focus among research, teaching, and service in this volume. Both the workshop and the review process for this volume were geared toward helping authors develop our own critical lenses.
These chapters represent a snapshot in time, and they capture where each author is in grappling with fitting engineering and social justice together, with re-forming our own thoughts and approaches from what we were taught toward what we hope is increasingly just. We hope the process of writing and revising after critical review has increased all authors’ knowledge and experience with social justice approaches, and we know this process is always incomplete, as social justice is itself a work in progress. Further conversation, additional critical challenges to our work from readers, and a continual re-shaping of our approaches are welcome, invited, and necessary.
Several common themes have emerged through the writing of this anthology, despite the different backgrounds and approaches taken by each author. These themes illustrate some key characteristics of the work of putting engineering together with social justice: diversity of theoretical approaches; the role of criticality and reflexivity; the recurring question of who benefits and who pays; and the tension between the internal and the external in working for change.
One of the big differences when working across disciplines is the use of theory. What theory is, what it looks like, and how it represents itself within the research process or the written product can vary enormously. Some engineers say that social scientists do not have theory, just ideas; at the same time, some social scientists bemoan the lack of any theoretical framing when engineers write. Despite these difficulties in recognizing theory across disciplines, theory does retain certain similarities across all domains. It is a way of thinking, a structure, a set of ideas that have been written about in the past, have been around long enough to have hardy descendants (after Ravetz, 1971), and often have been published. This theory is then applied to the new work—for example, a new set of ideas, “evidence” from data collected experimentally, or from literature. The theory might predict what we should expect—that is, define for us our hypothesis—or it may take the form of a lens through which we analyse our current project, or both. What differs, between and within disciplines, is not in fact the theory, but the epistemology behind the theory—the way of knowing—or what we think knowing means. For example, in engineering texts authors often assume a positivist stance where they believe they are searching for the truth using particular methods and standards of evidence. They know that the theory may be incorrect and that a new one may take its place, but multiple correct conceptions were considered impossible until Einstein came along. Nevertheless, for many engineers, the idea of “seeing through the lens” of a particular set of ideas about the world, knowing this to be only one of many lenses that may be applied, all of which are valid, can seem an extraordinary thing to do.
In the chapters that follow, authors use theory in various ways, including creating new theory, modifying or borrowing theory from other disciplinary fields and bringing it to new use in engineering education research, or challenging existing theories. Each of them adopts a particular set of ideas through which they develop their arguments. Some examples: Alice L. Pawley uses feminist boundary theories to guide her analysis of what constitutes engineering; Caroline Baillie frames her reflective assessment of her own research using a lens of justice and post-development theory; George Catalano adopts complex systems science and Berry’s principles of an evolving or unfolding universe to question our responsibilities as engineers. Each author positions himself or herself and identifies what he or she sees from that position. There is no question that it will take a revolution to transform existing engineering publication practice to accept the place of the author within the research and to experience first person texts. However, it might be possible on the way to encourage more engineering authors to question basic assumptions about presumed ideas and to state their theoretical position, and ideas about the nature of the knowledge they are creating.
Just as the chapters in this book vary in their theoretical approaches, so too do they vary in how they engage the notion of criticality. While the project of engineering and social justice can (should) be positioned as a critique of the profession and academic discipline of engineering, and the practice of engineering education, it is also important for us as authors to be critical of our own work in this endeavor. Indeed, social justice as a concept presses us to ask, “what is right?” and “who is right? What makes them right?”—inherently embodying critique. While incorporation of critical theory as a practice and in the Chicago school tradition is unusual in engineering education research (let alone engineering research), we do find instances of self-critique or self-questioning more frequent than one might imagine from a fairly conservative profession. Perhaps we should not be surprised, as some of even the most conservative engineers define engineering with the maxim: “Scientists ask the question, ‘why?’ Engineers ask the question ‘why not?’” (Petroski, 2009). But we should be more systematic and reflexive in articulating our critiques. What is the subject of our critical gaze? What are our methods to critique existing or our own work? What evidence do we use to critique others’ or our own work? In this anthology, each chapter’s author(s) address the question and scope of social justice in engineering within their piece, employing different dimensions of criticality.
One set of papers addresses the question of how to improve access and success of underrepresented students in engineering education programs, critically engaging structures in higher education. Lisa A. McLoughlin notes that access to a four-year education is easier for those with power and resources, and that community colleges provide educational opportunities to those excluded by existing four-year public and private universities. Michele L. Strutz and her colleagues note that students of low socioeconomic status can also bring diverse perspectives to engineering, and the authors ask how we might structure our engineering educational systems to better support the educational success of such students. George D. Ricco and Matthew W. Ohland prompt us to question our assumptions about engineering students as a body, and they offer ideas for how to rethink our conceptions of what students are like. Each of these papers takes as its critical lens the assumption of how and who we construct educational institutions for, and how those populations then construct our discipline of engineering as an inclusive or exclusive one.
Another set of papers critically explores the subject of engineering research—both the subject itself and the practice of engineering, of engineering education, and of research as a culturally situated endeavor. Matthew W. Ohland and his colleagues argue for new ways of quantifying students’ socioeconomic status in engineering education research as more accurate representations of the idea of class. In a more direct link, George Catalano notes the difficulty of understanding the concept of “turbulence” in fluid mechanics, and he argues that using social justice and complexity theory as lenses may help advance our understanding of this technical idea. Monica Cardella and her colleagues argue that the way engineering design processes lead engineers and engineering students to relate to the subjects and users of the eventual design is problematic, and the authors present the case that human-centered design can be a better way to meet the needs of non-designers while improving the education of engineering students. They prompt reflective engineers and practitioners to ask of themselves at what point of the design process are people as users and citizens incorporated, and how can they be involved earlier, for the improvement of the process and the outcome alike. Pawley argues that engineering academic practice sets limiting boundaries around appropriate content of engineering in such a way that the historical work of women and people in Third World contexts is functionally excluded, and she asks academics to re-conceptualize their embodiment of these boundaries in their daily practice as engineers.
A final set of papers turns its critique inward, noting the practice of writing the piece itself is a form of critical reflection. Baillie questions her own motives and governing theories of work and economic participation both in her sabbatical work with Argentinian cartoneros and now writing about them for new audiences. Riley describes a critical narrative and tour she has crafted in response to institutional narratives about the value of a new engineering building on campus, and she is explicit about how the writing of the piece is a form of catharsis for her.
Another clear motif for this book could be articulated by Franklin’s (1999) question, “who benefits and who pays?” The chapters by Ohland and his colleagues, Strutz and her colleagues, and McLoughlin assume that higher education in general (and engineering education in particular) provides benefit to all participants, and thus aim to extend these benefits to poor, working class, and first-generation college students. Cardella and her colleagues speak about the benefit of community service-learning to the student body—but we are left with the question as to whether the community might benefit or indeed pay high costs for this “service” (VanderSteen, Hall, & Baillie, 2010). In Baillie’s chapter she considers whether there is any real benefit from her research and teaching, to the cooperatives she is working with in Argentina, and how she knows this, and on whose terms, and how we find this out. Pawley points out that mainly it is men who have benefited so far, both as professionals and as recipients of the engineering work by the way it is constructed and constituted. In her alternative tour of a building at her institution, Smith College, funded by Ford Motor Company, Riley points out the benefits to corporations and universities at the expense of local community members, and Catalano goes further to suggest that not only do we need to consider less powerful and marginalized groups, but also we need to consider non-human species.
In social justice movements, group members wrestle with questions of defining themselves—who is considered a member of the group and who is an outsider? As a matter of strategy and tactics, is it better to take an approach for change from within an unjust system, or to approach change from outside? While in the big picture sense, social justice advocates are quick to recognize the value of multiple approaches to change, these internal-external tensions necessarily pervade particular campaigns that seek to put forth a specific perspective from one group. This tension between internal and external is manifest in several chapters of this book.
Pawley’s work on boundaries in/of engineering is focused perhaps most directly on what is internal, what is external, and how the line between the two is constructed along lines of gender. Catalano takes up the task of transforming the field of fluid mechanics, balancing insider and outsider perspectives. As a fluid mechanician himself, Catalano is the consummate insider. However, he draws in perspectives from well outside the field, writing for a wider audience than colleagues studying fluid behavior. Ricco and Ohland consider the classroom itself as a site of social justice struggle, where students define themselves against professors they seek to hold accountable to ideals espoused in lecture. Students form groups that critically analyze and at times resist power within this environment.
Ohland and his colleagues take up the question of who is included in engineering, examining the issue of class and access to engineering education. They analyze the institution of higher education from within, identifying injustice using tools that are conventionally accepted and respected: quantitative analysis of large data sets. Strutz and her colleagues and McLoughlin also take up the issue of class and examine access to engineering education. Both seek to make the external internal, by listening to and amplifying the experiences of working class and first-generation college students, and the experiences of community college students.
In universities, the town-gown divide is a central internal-external dynamic; three chapters address university-community relationships. Cardella and her colleagues consider engineers’ participation in service-learning courses, the lessons learned by crossing the university-community divide, and the promises and limitations of this model for social justice. Baillie reflects on international community-based research that challenges prevailing economic systems, where a number of internal-external dynamics are confronted around university-community, culture and language, economic class, and perspectives on political economy. Riley describes her attempt to transform her own institution’s responsibilities in relation to a campus construction project that impacted a neighboring community and local labor groups.
This book is itself a representation of the diverse lenses and approaches needed to address questions of engineering and social justice. It is not a book that needs to be read from cover to cover. In the style of Deleuze and Guattari’s (1987) Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia , we invite you to enter each chapter as a plateau of experience, move into the space of new ideas, and allow yourself to reflect on your own practices and how they might be reframed toward the goal of enhanced social justice.
Deleuze, G., & Guattari, F. (1987). Thousand plateaus: Capitalism and schizophrenia. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Franklin, U. (1999). The real world of technology. Toronto, Canada: House of Anansi Press.
Petroski, H. (2009, January 25). Want to engineer real change? Don’t ask a scientist. Washington Post. Retrieved from
Ravetz, J. R. (1971). Scientific knowledge and its social problems. New York: Clarendon Press.
VanderSteen, J. D. J., Hall, K. R., & Baillie, C. A. (2010). Humanitarian engineering placements in our own communities. European Journal of Engineering Education 35 (2), 215.
Teaching and learning
Chapter 1
Monica E. Cardella, Carla B. Zoltowski, and William C. Oakes
Engineering students (and practicing engineers) can fall into the trap of either imagining that they themselves can accurately and adequately represent their end-users’ needs and wishes, or forgetting the end-user entirely. As engineering students and practitioners focus on the technical, logistical, and economic aspects of their design, they can not only neglect their users and clients, but also ignore the greater social context and ramifications of their work. Students and practitioners cannot promote social justice in their engineering design work if they do not consider people’s needs and lived experiences throughout their design process. The focus of this chapter is on helping students realize all of the people involved in and affected by their design decisions and in doing so, to develop a human-centered approach to design. To accomplish this, we might teach students user-centered/human-centered design concepts in courses using traditional pedagogies, such as lectures, laboratories, and instructor-as-client projects. Alternatively, students who participate in service-learning design courses learn through authentic design experience with an actual client (i.e., someone other than the instructor) who has a real need (and an intention to adopt/use the end design). Our hypothesis is that students develop a more sophisticated understanding of users, stakeholders, and other people affected by design decisions as well as the larger social implications through service-learning experiences. Additionally, we hypothesize that students are better able to develop a conceptual understanding and appreciation of the importance of human-centered design through service-learning experiences that promote more socially just practices.
Engineers possess the knowledge and skills to profoundly impact society and human life—in both positive and negative ways. Engineering solutions such as the modernization of sewage systems in the twentieth century, which lowered the mortality rate of the population significantly, have tremendously benefited society. However, there is a concern about how to educate engineers to develop ways of practice that are also socially just. Recently the National Academy of Engineering (2008) has identified 14 “Grand Challenges for Engineering,” which included providing access to clean water, managing the nitrogen cycle, and restoring and preventing nuclear terror. These challenges represent opportunities for positive impact on social well-being. There also remain countless untapped opportunities for engineers to address pressing needs for infrastructure, goods, and services in developing contexts. Paterson and Fuchs (2008, p. 1 ) describe this as “development for the other 80%.” Doing so demands a different set of competencies as compared to designing for traditional markets. Without understanding the complexity of the problem, particularly the social aspects (e.g., cultural practices, possible unintended uses by the people adopting the solution), there is great opportunity for engineers’ solutions to damage rather than help. Within the context of usability engineering, a common principle is using consistent symbols and icons to communicate ideas. For example, on computers a trash can is a consistent icon used to indicate that the files moved to the trash can will be “thrown out” or deleted. Another common symbol is a red skull and cross bones used to communicate that something is dangerous. However, applying these symbols to indicate that a bag of rice was unfit for human consumption led to severe illnesses when these bags of rice were transported to a country unfamiliar with these “consistent” symbols (Casey, 1998).
IDEO, a global leader in design, states on their website (2009):
We believe in the power of design thinking to create significant social change. As perhaps the purest example of our human-centered approach, Social Impact at IDEO enables design as a tool to address such global social issues as poverty, health, water, economic empowerment, environmental activism, and the need for basic services. Design for social impact seeks to incite transformational change in underserved, underrepresented, and disadvantaged communities.
Human-centered design (HCD) is a critical avenue for students to develop empathic design skills. In this chapter we describe HCD as an approach engineers can use to understanding how engineering solutions might be adopted and adapted and otherwise impact people. We believe that this is an important part of being able to practice engineering in a socially just manner, and we provide our rationale for this. The chapter focuses on HCD more than on socially just engineering, then, as we aim to share our insights and expertise on HCD, and we recognize that we are not experts in the field of engineering for social justice. Much of the chapter is then devoted to the process of developing an HCD approach—how engineering students might learn HCD. We discuss this in terms of the content (or curriculum), assessment, and instructional approach (Pellegrino, 2006) associated with learning HCD. Finally, we present a brief overview of research currently underway that investigates the potential for service-learning to facilitate students’ comprehension of HCD.
Design has been defined as a “systematic, intelligent process in which designers generate, evaluate, and specify concepts for devices, systems, or processes whose form and function achieve clients’ objectives or users’ needs while satisfying a specified set of constraints” (Dym, Agogino, Eris, Frey, & Leifer, 2005, p. 104 ). It is a central and distinguishing activity of engineering (Simon, 1996) and a core criterion for evaluating and accrediting engineering programs (ABET, 2009). However, recently it has been argued that there is a paradigm shift occurring in design from “technology-centered design” to “human-centered design” (Krippendorff, 2006). Technology-centered design has been defined as a process in which the designers or their clients make design decisions that are imposed on the intended users (Krippendorff, 2006; Hoffman et al., 2002). In contrast, IDEO (2010) defines HCD as:
a process and a set of techniques used to create new solutions for the world. Solutions include products, services, environments, organizations, and modes of interaction. The reason this process is called “human-centered” is because it starts with the people we are designing for. ( p. 5 )
This definition of HCD is consistent with Zhang and Dong’s (2008, p. 3 ) review of several HCD approaches, which found that all of the approaches have human beings as central in the process, involve users throughout the design process, and seek to understand them holistically. In addition, the processes included multidisciplinary collaboration in order to make products and services useful, usable, and desirable. Similarly, Krippendorff (2006, p. 230) identifies three features shared by different HCD methods: 1) They are “design methods” that employ both divergent and convergent thinking; 2) The processes are concerned with how the stakeholders themselves attribute meaning through the use of the proposed design; and 3) The methods include prototypes and other ways for the stakeholders to test the design ideas themselves since “a projected future cannot yet be observed.” Note that all definitions describe HCD as distinct from simply the design of something that is user-friendly; instead, HCD involves and values stakeholders throughout the design process rather than checking for “user-friendliness” at the end of the process.
The term “social justice” is credited to the Jesuit priest Luigi Taparelli d’Azeglio (circa 1840) and is based in the work of St. Thomas Aquinas, who promoted the idea that human beings are fundamentally social beings who benefit from functioning as members of communities with shared visions and shared goals. Aquinas’ ideas were further developed into a tradition of concern for the dignity of the poor (Riley, 2008). The term is now generally associated with the idea of creating an egalitarian society that is based on the principles of equality and solidarity, which understands and values human rights and recognizes the dignity of every human being (Zajda, Majhanovich, & Rust, 2006). It has also been defined in terms of a society where every individual is able to “develop and exercise her or his intellectual, social, emotional, and expressive capacities” (Ayers et al., 1998, p. xxix).
In recent years, engineers and engineering educators have reflected on how social justice relates to engineering (Baillie, 2006; Riley, 2008). Baillie and her colleagues (2010) present an overview of the relationship between engineering projects and social justice through development projects; the authors then provide examples of a “client-centered” approach to community projects involving engineers and engineering solutions. A crucial first step in their design process was to determine who their client was—representing a key opportunity to adopt a social justice frame for engineering work. In their case, they shifted their “‘client’ from one group to another, from powerful and affluent to marginalized and vulnerable” (Baillie, Feinblatt, Thamae, & Berrington, 2010, p. 9 ). They further took a “client-centered” approach (which we call “human-centered”) by conducting a needs analysis before beginning any other work and by involving the local residents in a participatory design process. Their needs analysis included an analysis of documents published by representatives of the project site (in this case, the documents were published by institutions in Maseru City, one of ten districts in Lesotho), interviews with local experts (representatives of local institutions), short questionnaires collected from local residents (farmers, householders, and members of cooperatives), as well as interviews, workshops, and follow-up phone interviews with the local residents. Thus their design process reflects another key aspect of HCD: the inclusion of multiple stakeholder groups with varying needs and varying knowledge bases.
Baillie’s case studies also demonstrate that to understand and value human rights and recognize the dignity of every human being, the engineer must engage in empathic design, where the “user” is valued, and the designer recognizes that the user has knowledge from which the designer can benefit, just as the designer has knowledge from which the user can benefit. The designer is not merely helping the user, but he or she is learning from and respects the user. This understanding and valuing of “users” is consistent with what it means to practice HCD (Zoltowski, 2010).
While many aspects of HCD are consistent with what it means to practice socially just engineering, an HCD approach does not automatically lead to a socially just practice or process. HCD means that the designer considers clients, users, and other stakeholders early in the process as well as throughout the process, and it means that the designer considers the client and user’s full (social, political, environmental, etc.) context. In HCD, the designer practices a variety of methods (e.g., surveys, observations, and focus groups) to conduct needs analyses, to determine the initial project scope, to evaluate design alternatives, to identify opportunities for improvement, and overall to make design decisions. All of these skills will enable a designer to practice engineering in a socially just manner—if the designer has this intent. It is entirely possible, we acknowledge, for a designer to practice HCD without seeking to promote social justice (whether by serving a megacorporation, an established academic entity, or a powerful government agency). We contend, then, that HCD skills and approaches are necessary, although not sufficient, for designers to practice socially just engineering.
In this section, we must address the question of whether it is important for all students to develop a human-centered approach to design. As we contend that HCD provides the tools, skills, and methods that enable designers to practice socially just engineering, from the perspective of engineering for social justice we might then say that “yes, all students should develop HCD skills.” However, we recognize that engineering for social justice is not uniformly valued across different educational institutions. In this case, we base our argument on other national trends. For example, design is recognized as a central and distinguishing activity of engineering (Atman, Chimka, Bursic, & Nachtmann, 1999; Bucciarelli, 1994; Simon 1996), and it has been acknowledged as a key criterion for evaluating engineering programs (ABET, 2009). Therefore, it is essential that we not only provide engineering students with opportunities to develop design skills (Dym et al., 2005), but we provide students with research-informed opportunities that can provide them with knowledge, tools, and skills that will enable them to be good designers. Research has shown that HCD can lead to innovation in engineering design (Brown, 2008), help students develop skills in creativity, practical ingenuity, and communication necessary for the Engineer of 2020 (National Academy of Engineering [NAE], 2004), can give engineers a competitive advantage in a global workplace (NAE, 2005), and help engineers address the “Grand Challenges” identified by the NAE (2008).
The argument for HCD is further substantiated in the research on design practiced by professionals. Developing a human-centered approach to design is vital for appropriately preparing our graduates for the globally competitive workplace. For engineering graduates to make an impact in the global workforce, they must develop “design thinking,” which Tim Brown, CEO and president of IDEO, defines as
a methodology that imbues the full spectrum of innovation activities with a human-centered design ethos. By this I mean that innovation is powered by a thorough understanding, through direct observation, of what people want and need in their lives and what they like or dislike about the way particular products are made, packaged, marketed, sold, and supported. (Brown, 2008, p. 86 )
HCD has been shown to increase productivity, reduce errors, reduce training and support costs, improve people’s acceptance of new products, enhance companies’ reputations, increase user satisfaction, and reduce development costs (Maguire, 2001).
IDEO (2010) describes empathic design as follows:
Empathic design is not a method in which preconceived ideas and assumptions are substituted for grounded research and connection with end-users. Although solutions are generated by the design team, the goal is to always have the people you are designing for in mind. ( p. 60 )
IDEO continues: “Empathic design means thinking from the perspective of your users, and doing everything you can to feel and understand what they are experiencing” ( p. 61 ). Sklar and Madsen connect empathic design to work to improve people’s lives, regardless of whether the work is done in developing countries or in a Western country. They have found that their work designing for developing countries has motivated a more human-centered and empathic approach to all of their work.
Although designs from Western countries aren’t always transferable, our design process itself often might be. Starting with people and making sense of complex challenges has proven to be effective because it enables us to learn first hand what is appropriate and what is desired. Our experience working in developing countries has challenged us to hone our design skills and to be more flexible in our approach. The principles of design for the developing world are shared here as a source of guidance—but also as a form of reassurance and encouragement. Designers should be confident that their approaches to learning about the world are applicable across the world. Practiced well, our design process can lead us to innovations that truly meet people’s needs and improve their lives. In fact, we find that as we engage our fundamental design practices in the developing world, we reinvigorate our approach to any design challenge. (Sklar & Madsen, 2010, p. 31 )
HCD is a critical avenue for students to develop empathic design skills, but little had been done to characterize the development of an HCD perspective. As we consider how we might help students develop a human-centered approach to design, there are three major considerations we need to address: the content of HCD (the knowledge, skills, and attitudes we want students to gain); how we will assess students’ understanding of HCD; and the pedagogy of HCD (the best instructional approach for helping students develop HCD knowledge, skills, and approaches) (Pellegrino, 2006). As a first step, an understanding of the ways in which students understand and experience HCD was needed. To address this need, we conducted a phenomenographic study to investigate the qualitatively different ways in which students experienced HCD (Zoltowski, 2010). In this study, 33 student designers from a variety of academic contexts were interviewed using a semi-structured, open-ended approach in which they discussed concrete experiences “designing for others” as well as reflections and meanings associated with those experiences.
Analysis of the data yielded seven qualitatively different ways in which the students experienced HCD. In phenomenography, the different ways of experiencing or understanding a phenomenon are referred to as categories of description. For this study, each of the seven categories reflects a qualitatively different way of understanding or experiencing HCD. Inclusion in the specific category was based on the student designers’ understanding of HCD as a whole as reflected in the experiences they shared in their interviews. This is not to say that the students themselves were assigned to a particular category, as an individual might experience HCD in multiple ways, but their experiences as described as part of the interview were mapped to one category. An overview of the categories of description is given in Table 1 .
The seven categories of description formed an outcome space that was two-dimensional with distinct, but not independent, axes: “Understanding of the users” and “Design process and integration,” as shown in Figure 1 . The axes depict complex constructs and have scales that were derived from the categories themselves and are ordinal in nature. The placement of the scales along the axes was consistent with the literature and research on human-centered design. For example, there was an increased involvement of the user along the vertical axis from Category 3 (User info Input to Linear Process) in which the students view the user as an information source to Category 5 (Design in Context) in which the students approach to design begins to take into consideration social context issues. The most comprehensive category, Category 7 (Empathic Design), reflects an empathic design approach in which the student designers take into consideration a wide variety of stakeholders who will be impacted by the design, not just those in power.
The overall structure of the outcome space suggests a number of things. First, that there is both a “design” aspect and an “understanding of the users” aspect reflected in the experiences of HCD. Second, the graph suggests that students’ understanding of the user and their ability to integrate that into their design are related in the development of more comprehensive ways of experiencing HCD. As the student designers understand users and the context better, they are then confronted with the need to take more factors/aspects of the design into consideration. Therefore, their awareness of the complexity of design increases. Similarly, as design and disciplinary skills increase and are brought to bear on the design, the student designers are more capable of incorporating more complex information about the stakeholders, as well as aspects related to the feasibility and viability that are not realized without those skills.
Table 1. Categories of description of students’ experience of human-centered design (Zoltowski, Oakes, & Cardella, in revision). Category of description (human-centered design is...) Summary Category 1: Technology-centered Design is not human-centered, but technology-centered design. The focus of the design is on the technology and solving the technical problem, not on the “others” or humans. The approach lacks both an understanding of the users and an appreciation for the users’ knowledge, experience, and perspective. (Joe, Emily, and Jacob) Category 2: Service Human-centered design is not design, but service, helping or positively benefiting others, but utilizing very limited, if any, design methods or processes to achieve that goal (e.g., needs assessment, iteration, decision-making tools, convergent and divergent thinking, balancing of constraints, perspective-taking, getting feedback, or prototyping). (Alisa, Craig, Julian, James, and Clare) Category 3: User as information source input to linear process Human-centered design is a linear design process where users and other stakeholders are viewed primarily as sources of information, assistance, and/or support, not those whose needs should be reflected in design. (Daniel, Kylie, Todd, Heather, and Brendan) Category 4: Keeping the users’ needs in mind Human-centered design is keeping the users’ needs and how design will be used in mind while designing. This approach involves gathering information about the users primarily from higher-level stakeholders or experts versus the users directly. Integrating that information with aspects of technical feasibility and viability is done to the extent that disciplinary knowledge allows. (Gina, Nishant, Ben, Andres, Aparna, and Megan) Category 5: Understanding the design in context Human-centered design is understanding the design in context, seeking knowledge not only about the stakeholders’ needs and how the design will be used, but also more broadly the social, political, and/or environmental context. (Chloe, Salena, Amelie, Krista, and Michael) Category 6: Commitment to involving stakeholders to understand perspectives Human-centered design is a commitment to involving stakeholders in the design process to understand their perspectives, seeking and taking into consideration contextual information, and balancing multiple perspectives. (Andrew, Sejal, Ethan, Ava, and Paige) Category 7: Empathie design Human-centered design is empathie design, basing design on knowledge gained through a connection with end-users, not on preconceived ideas and assumptions. A very broad understanding of stakeholders is developed beyond the scope of the project by interacting with users informally and in social situations. (William, Maddie, Greg, and David)

Figure 1. Outcome space for human-centered design.
Additionally, the findings suggest both design skills and an appreciation of the user are needed in the development of more comprehensive ways of experiencing HCD. Although the students whose experiences comprised the “technology-centered” group were seniors with design experience, their approach to designing for others was qualitatively different as it reflected a lack of appreciation of the user’s knowledge, skills, and experiences as well as the role of the user in design. This implies that becoming human-centered does not result from simply learning more about design or developing disciplinary skills. It also requires some component, whether internally motivated or externally motivated, that moves the student in the direction of a better understanding the user. Similarly, the students whose experiences comprised the “service” group expressed an appreciation for the people that they were “designing” for, but their lack of design skills contributed to a way of experiencing human-centered that was very different from even those student designers with limited design skills.
Finally, within the outcome space, the categories of description themselves depict qualitatively different experiences that help illustrate the progression through the more comprehensive ways of experiencing the phenomenon. This helps to define what it means to have a more comprehensive way of experiencing HCD, but it produces the question, what are the typical pathways of development toward that more comprehensive experience? The most comprehensive way of experiencing HCD was “empathic design,” where the design was based on knowledge gained through a connection with end-users, not on preconceived ideas and assumptions. A very broad understanding of stakeholders is developed beyond the scope of the project by interacting with users informally and in social situations. In this way, the end-users are valued and viewed as partners in the design process, where the designers and end-users have a reciprocal relationship, where each has a form of expertise to contribute. While this category (7: Empathic design) reflects a more participatory approach within the HCD space, as described in the literature (e.g., Sanders, 2008; Sanoff, 2007), in general the outcome space represents a developmental model, and so the different categories do not map well to the different HCD processes practiced by experts and described from theoretical perspectives.
The results of the phenomenographic study suggest that critical or immersive experiences involving real clients and users were important in allowing the students to experience HCD in more comprehensive ways. For example, student designers who fell in the “commitment” category all described critical experiences that challenged their assumptions about design. These experiences included problems associated with delivering a project or prototype to the client. For example, one participant described her experience in which her prototype was rejected by the patients as a “wake-up call.” Similarly, all the student designers were included in the “empathic design” category described immersive experiences with their stakeholders, particularly the users. The idea of critical experiences as allowing the students to experience HCD in more comprehensive ways is a very important one, especially related to design education, and it requires further study.
After determining the content (whether skills, knowledge, etc.) that is to be taught, it is important to identify how that content will be assessed. Assessment enables the instructor to determine whether the learner has developed the desired understanding of the content; it also allows the learner to receive feedback on his or her progress, and it allows the researcher to investigate the impact of different pedagogical interventions. In our work, we have aimed to meet the needs of all three of these groups—the instructor, the learner, and the researcher, through the development of a design task that could be used to assess understanding of HCD. In order for the assessment tool to meet the needs of the instructor and learner, the tool must match the constraints of a classroom context: the learner must be able to complete the task in a reasonable amount of time, which we have defined as 50 minutes, and the instructor must be able to score the students’ responses quickly, easily, and reliably. For the researcher, we must ensure that the tool is dependable and valid. To accomplish these goals, we use the results of the phenomenographic study along with iterative rounds of pilot testing and expert review in the development of the task as well as the development of a rubric to score the task. Development of the task and rubric is still underway, but we present an example of one version of a piloted task (more details of the work of developing the task are presented by Melton, Zoltowski, Cardella, and Oakes [2010]):
A natural disaster has occurred on the west coast of the United States. A vast majority of residents have lost their jobs and homes. You, and the design company you represent, are being considered to be placed in charge of the recovery effort to identify and develop solutions that will restore the livelihoods of the residents. Carla S. Helpful, a local resident, will be your guide and help you find the resources you need, whether it is materials or people. The economy of the town you will be responsible for is heavily dependent on tourism, seafood, and the natural landscape of the area. To be selected as prime project manager s for this job you have to describe what your activities would be for the first month as well as providing concepts that your team would deliver to the community in the coming months. Use a Gantt chart to plan out the activities to be done for the first month.
Sample Human-Centered Design Task—Natural Disaster.
The final aspect of helping students to develop a human-centered approach to design is the pedagogy used. The authors have developed learning experiences for undergraduate engineering students in three different contexts and formats: an introductory engineering course for first-year engineering students; a senior-level elective design course; and a vertically integrated, multi-year service-learning design course. Our hypothesis is that the service-learning pedagogical approach enables students to develop a conceptual understanding of and an appreciation for the importance of HCD beyond what students would acquire through the other pedagogical approaches. Later in the chapter, we present ongoing research that investigates this hypothesis.
Each of the approximately 1,600 first-year engineering students at our university must complete (and pass) a two-semester introduction to engineering course sequence. In the course designed for the majority of the students (that is, all students not enrolled in the honors version of the course), students are introduced to HCD in the context of two course sessions, reading from the course textbook, and homework assignments. During the class sessions, the students are given a warm-up exercise where they must design something for a particular user group (e.g., a shopping cart for a stay-at-home father of two young children; a stovetop for persons with visual impairments). After debriefing the exercise, eliciting the types of concerns students considered, and types of information the students may have benefited from, the instructors present a rationale for why students should consider a human-centered approach to engineering design; they also present a variety of tools a designer might use to learn about stakeholders and other people impacted by engineering designs. Students learn approaches for conducting observations of people, interviews, and surveys as well as the trade-offs between these techniques. The reading from the course textbook (which includes notes created by the instructors and excerpts from Change by Design , Brown, 2009) provides additional rationale for a human-centered approach to engineering design as well as additional methods used in HCD. Finally, during their out-of-class time, students conduct interviews and observations to gather information related to their semester-long design project, and they analyze related survey data that is collected by the course coordinator using survey questions developed in class by the students.
The senior-level elective design course, in contrast, emphasizes HCD throughout the full semester. Class sessions are structured mainly as group discussions, with some brief presentations by the instructors, and time balanced between small-group discussions and full-class discussion. Students discuss various aspects of, motivations for, and techniques throughout the term (e.g., wants/needs analysis; participatory design models and strategies; task analysis; observations; interviews; surveys; think-alouds; eye-tracking; card sorting; creating persona and scenarios; prototyping; usability testing). In addition to topics that are focused on HCD, the course includes topics on human cognition and learning that support HCD, such as “individual differences,” “how people learn,” and “life-long learning strategies.” Students work in teams of three to four people on a semester-long design project that emphasizes the use of a HCD process over the final design product. Each team selects a unique project topic and must work together to narrow the focus of their project. Course readings further support students’ learning of HCD approaches. Course readings vary by semester, but they have come from sources such as The Design of Everyday Things (Norman, 2002), Set Phasers on Stun: And Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error (Casey, 1998), How People Learn (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000), Understanding Your Users: A Practical Guide to User Requirements Methods, Tools, and Techniques (Courage & Baxter, 2005), and a variety of individual journal articles and conference papers.
Service-learning is a pedagogy that integrates academic learning with service that meets human needs. Often, these needs are for the underserved, thereby providing access to services for underserved people. When service-learning is applied to design-learning, it provides students with a direct user (i.e., someone who is not the course instructor) who has compelling needs (and immediate interest in implementing the proposed solution/design). This is an ideal context to study HCD and provides a context in which to explore broader social issues for the students and access to services and products for the underserved in a community. It has been widely adopted in many disciplines (Zlotkowski, 1998) and has been formally defined as “a credit-bearing educational experience in which students participate in an organized service activity in such a way as to gain further understanding of the course content, a broader appreciation of the discipline, and an enhanced sense of civic responsibility” (Bringle & Hatcher, 1996, p. 222).
Research has shown many benefits to service-learning. Reflection, the metacognitive process that is a critical service-learning component, has been shown to enhance learning across academic subjects (Bransford et al., 2000). Eyler and Giles (1999) found that a majority of service-learning students reported learning more and were motivated to work harder in service-learning classes than in traditional classes. They also found that a majority reported a deeper understanding of subject matter, understanding complexity of social issues, retained material at higher rates across disciplines, and the ability to apply material they learned in class to real problems. Astin and Sax (1998) examined the impact of service-learning across a sample of more than 22,000 undergraduates within the United States. Controlling for the impact of volunteering outside of class, they found a positive impact of curricular service-learning on academic outcomes including grade point average, critical thinking skills, and writing skills.
While engineering has been slower to adopt service-learning than many other disciplines, there is significant and growing increase within engineering about service-learning both as a pedagogy and a tool in the efforts to increase recruitment and retention, especially among underrepresented populations. Curricular models of service-learning, such as the EPICS Program, have been spreading in the area of design. Extracurricular models such as “Engineers Without Borders,” “Engineers for a Sustainable World,” and “Engineering World Health” have provided opportunities for students and faculty to engage in engineering service projects and have prompted curricular reforms to take advantage of the learning and student interest. One of the most ambitious curricular implementation of service-learning is at the University of Massachusetts Lowell in their “Service-Learning Integrated throughout the College of Engineering” (SLICE) initiative (Duffy et al., 2008).
Research on service-learning in engineering includes a joint study conducted at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which showed that students’ participants increased their connection between engineering and community needs (Duffy et al., 2008). Investigations reported an increase in retention for first-year students who participated in service-learning (Lima, 2000; Piket-May & Avery, 2001). The EPICS Program at Purdue University reported attracting higher percentages of women than are recorded in the overall population (Coyle, Jamieson, & Oakes, 2005), and this is consistent with other engineering service-learning programs (Duffy et al., 2008). Swan (2009; NSF grant EEC—0835981) is examining the impact on women in service-learning and the impact of understanding of the design process through service-learning.
Service-learning can provide a rich educational experience for the students and a pedagogical approach to bring issues of social justice into the engineering classrooms. There are, however, traps that must be avoided, especially within the context of social justice. The first trap is to focus on the student experience without balancing the needs of the community. Service-learning is more than just using the community to provide a different kind of learning experience for students. Service-learning seeks to provide value to community members as well as education for the students. If we enlist the community to help educate our students but provide no real value that increases their capacity, we are sapping valuable resources out of the community that could be used to provide service to the underserved.
An HCD approach integrated with service-learning can be used to address this. Students can and should be enlisted in identifying how their designs will make a difference. It is incumbent on us to not stop at the idea stage for designs. How will the ideas be implemented within the community? We need to think about what the community truly needs and how can we leverage our service-learning classes to meet these needs. In the process of developing and implementing a service-learning class, community assessments must be done to bring the voice of the community members.
When working with the community, we seek to develop reciprocal partnerships. The community, faculty, and students work together to address the community needs and to improve learning for all. Another trap to avoid is the mindset that we in higher education are descending from our lofty academic platforms to help the lowly community. We must have the mindset and instill in our students that we are working alongside people who have expertise and from whom we can learn. There needs to be a view that we are working with the community rather than simply doing something for them, or in a worst case, to them (Ward & Wolf-Wendel, 2000). Students who are engaged in service-learning have to be guided through reflective thinking about how they view their partners and to be able to see their expertise and opportunities to learn from them. The very word “service” often implies a one-way partnership and has become somewhat controversial within the service-learning community. Phrases such as “engagement,” “community-engagement,” and “communitybased learning” are being used in some institutions in place of “service-learning” to try to express the intent of the reciprocal philosophy. Whatever the words used, the intent is to empower our community partners while increasing the learning of our students.
A challenge in engineering service-learning is that we often provide products as the result of our service-learning. These products can have a finite life and often need maintenance or repair after being in use. As we look at adding value and capacity to our communities, faculty engaging in service-learning must think about the long-term impacts of their partnerships. If products are produced, how will they be maintained? These questions can challenge traditional semester or quarter class structures. One approach to providing long-term support in a curricular-based approach is the EPICS Program.
EPICS is a service-learning approach to teaching design where multidisciplinary teams of students partner with local community organizations to identify, design, build, and deliver solutions to meet the community organization’s needs (Coyle et al., 2005; Coyle, Clement, & Garton-Krueger, 2006). The goal of the EPICS Program is to meet the critical educational need of providing hands-on engineering and technical design opportunities to a broad group of students as well as opportunities to develop critical professional skills, especially among women and underrepresented minorities. EPICS also meets vital needs within the communities that are served by providing nonprofit organizations—such as community service agencies, schools, museums, and local government offices—the creation, implementation, and delivery of technology resources needed to significantly improve the organization’s ability to serve the community. Each team is constituted for several years, from initial project definition through final deployment, allowing multi-year projects of significant design complexity and high potential impact in the community to be completed. The designs that are produced by the EPICS teams address compelling issues in the local community that often have potential applications in other communities through dissemination or commercialization. Quantitative and qualitative student evaluations have shown that EPICS is effectively teaching communication, leadership, teamwork, and design skills that are required for success in today’s global economy. Qualitative assessments have also shown that participation in EPICS enhanced their desire to continue within engineering (Coyle et al., 2005, 2006).
A fundamental advantage of service-learning as a pedagogical approach to developing students’ understanding of and appreciation for HCD is the experiential nature of the course structure (Dewey, 1938) as well as the frequent interaction with a community partner (i.e., direct user) who has specific needs that should be addressed by the project (and often are not addressed without the work of the student designers). When the community partners assist underserved people or are underserved themselves, it provides a direct contact for students to be exposed to these needs for themselves. Good designers understand the context in which they are designing, and for service-learning students, this means understanding the needs as well as the larger social context in which these needs exist. Service-learning has the additional connection to social justice in that it leverages the assets of the university, college, or school to address compelling needs of our local and global communities. Service-learning can be a leverage point to increase the availability of services without additional resources.
EPICS also explicitly teaches a human-centered approach to design through the presentation of the EPICS Design Process during a required workshop (EPICS, 2010). Participants must complete workshops during each semester with EPICS to supplement their work on the actual design projects. As evident in Figure 2 , students are explicitly taught that design includes: needs assessment, user analysis, observation, prototyping, scenarios, usability testing, field testing, and user testing, and that the stakeholders are at the center of the design process and project.

Figure 2. EPICS design process (EPICS, 2010).
Each of the three pedagogical approaches has advantages and disadvantages. In the context of the large introductory courses, students engage in a limited learning experience, where HCD is only one of many topics covered in the course. However, an advantage of this context is that all students receive some introduction to HCD. In the case of the small elective design course, students engage in learning activities focused on HCD and also learn specific tools for engaging in HCD in depth. However, only a small number of students choose to take this elective course, and students participate in projects that are invented by the instructors. Finally, the service-learning context provides students with a practical learning experience where they are able to meet a client’s need (a need of someone other than the instructor) as well as explicit instruction in an HCD process. While students sometimes benefit more from the project than do the community clients, as the projects allow students to participate in deep learning experiences, the clients benefit from the students’ work as well.
To address the need to provide students with learning opportunities involving HCD, as well as to investigate the potential catalyst that service-learning may play for students’ development of HCD skills and conceptual understanding, we are currently investigating two research questions:
1.   What is the impact of service-learning on students’ learning and understanding of engineering design, and more specifically, on having an understanding of human-centered design?
2.   What are the attributes of service- learning courses that help students develop an understanding of a human-centered design process?
As we address these questions, we will be able to draw from previous experiences with the EPICS Program as well as the presence of several other engineering-related service-learning programs, including “Engineers Without Borders,” “Engineers for a Sustainable World,” and “Engineering World Health.”
To investigate these questions, we will use the tool developed to assess students’ understanding of HCD (described earlier in this chapter) to investigate the impact of service-learning on engineering students’ comprehension of the subject. Our hypothesis is that service-learning contributes to understanding of the HCD process, and therefore, students who have participated in engineering-related service-learning experiences will demonstrate a more sophisticated understanding of HCD on the task.
To address this question, we will compare two groups of sophomore engineering students as well as two groups of senior engineering students. The sophomore engineering students will participate early in their sophomore year, in order to represent the impact of the first-year engineering experience on students’ learning. Half of the sophomore participants will be students who participated in a service-learning activity (including curricular activities, such as EPICS, and extracurricular activities, such as Engineers Without Borders, Engineers for a Sustainable World, etc.), and the other half will be students who did not participate in a service-learning activity. Similarly, the two groups of seniors will be students who are completing their undergraduate education (i.e., finishing their studies during the semester in which they participate in the study), half who have had minimal experience with service-learning (one semester or less) and half who have had more extensive experience with service-learning (more than one semester). By including both sophomore and senior participants, we will be able to investigate differences attributable to participation in service-learning as well as differences attributable to increased student maturity.
For this study, we will recruit 40 students for each of the four groups, for a total of 160 students. Each of these students will be given an honorarium of $15 for their participation in the study. The students will be recruited via e-mails and announcements related to the service-learning communities, as well as flyers for students who would not be included in a service-learning program. While the major focus of the study will be on characterizing students’ understanding of HCD, we intend to explore additional opportunities for investigating the impact of service-learning on students’ education. For example, we may also include Bailey and Szabo’s (2006) “Design Process Knowledge” instrument, one of McMartin, McKenna, and Youseffi’s (2000) design scenarios, or one of the instruments currently under development by Swan(2009) for assessing student understanding of engineering design concepts. Our goal is to systematically review current (at the time of this phase) assessment instruments to capitalize on the advances that may take place in the next two years. Through our analysis, we will use the task and the rubric that we develop to characterize differences in students’ understanding of HCD, and we will use this information along with information gained through additional instruments to identify differences between students who have participated in service-learning and those who have not.
The second research question is investigated through interviews with students. Some of this work has been accomplished through the phenomenographic interviews described earlier in the chapter. Further interviews are conducted as we pilot test the HCD task with a small group of seven to eight students who represent variation—variation in academic standing/experience as well as variation in prior service-learning experience. We ask these participants to complete the task, and we interview them regarding their experience with the task as well as their prior experiences with service-learning after they complete the task.
The engineers of the next century must supplement a strong technical education with awareness of cultural, ethical, and social contexts in which they will practice engineering. The skills and practices associated with HCD are not only integral skills and practices for students to learn in order to be innovative designers, but also skills and practices that will equip them to be able to engage in socially just engineering practices. HCD places engineering designers in a close connection with users. By taking into account diverse stakeholders’ needs, wants, and lived experiences throughout their design processes, using a variety of approaches for conducting needs analyses, eliciting feedback from stakeholders, and basing design decisions on stakeholders’ perspectives, students can become designers who are sensitive to diverse stakeholders’ needs as well as sensitive to the potential repercussions of design decisions. The model presented in this chapter shows the progression of HCD with the highest level being empathic design, where designers are keenly aware of the users as well as the larger social contexts.
Service-learning is a pedagogy that situates academic learning within service to underserved people. The integration of service with classroom learning creates learning opportunities to explore larger social issues within the classroom. In engineering, service-learning has been used in a variety of classes and contexts. We believe that service-learning is a powerful pedagogical tool for helping students develop the HCD skills and practices that will enable them to become socially just practitioners.
The EPICS Program is a model for integrating service-learning with HCD. Research and experience has shown that this combination can be powerful in student development. One of the tenets of service-learning that EPICS employs is reciprocity. The approach is to create mutually beneficial relationships with community partners and the university program. A key aspect is that EPICS creates long-term partnerships that continue to work with community partners as they learn from and support each other.
While the opportunities are enormous for student development, simply having students participate is not enough. The research in HCD and service-learning shows that learning experiences need to be processed with the students through metacognitive activities, including reflection. The research also suggests that there may be critical experiences that students must have to develop awareness of the larger social issues.
Although the service-learning context can provide enormous opportunities for service to humanity, especially the underserved, there are times when these experiences benefit the students more than the people they are intending to serve. However, the EPICS model of service-learning, in which there are long-term partnerships, values of reciprocity, and the use of an HCD process, is critical in developing a more socially just approach to engineering.
ABET. (2009). 2010-2011 Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs Retrieved from
Astin, A. W., & Sax, L. J. (1998). How undergraduates are affected by service participation. The Journal of College Student Development, 39 (3), 251-263.
Atman, C. J., Chimka, J. R., Bursic, K. M., & Nachtmann, H. N. (1999). A comparison of freshman and senior engineering design processes. Design Studies, 20 (2), 131-152.
Ayers, W., Hunt, J. A., & Quinn, T. (Eds.). (1998). Teaching for social justice: A democracy and education reader. New York, NY: New Press.
Bailey, R., & Szabo, Z. (2006). Assessing engineering design process knowledge. International Journal of Engineering Education, 22 (3), 508-518.
Baillie, C. (2006). Engineers within a local and global society. In Synthesis lectures on engineers, technology, and society. San Rafael, CA: Morgan and Claypool Publishers.
Baillie, C., Feinblatt, E., Thamae, T., & Berrington, E. (2010). Needs and feasibility: A guide for engineers in community projects—The case of waste for life. San Rafael, CA: Morgan and Claypool Publishers.
Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L., & Cocking, R. R. (Eds.). (2000). How people learn (2 nd ed.). Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Bringle, R. G., & Hatcher, J. A. (1996). Implementing service learning in higher education. Journal of Higher Education, 67, 221-239.
Brown, T. (2008). Design thinking. Harvard Business Review, 86 (6), 84-92.
Brown, T. (2009). Change by design. New York, NY: HarperBusiness.
Bucciarelli, L. (1994). Designing engineers. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Casey, S. M. (1998). Set phasers on stun: And other true tales of design, technology, and human error (2 nd ed.). Santa Barbara, CA: Aegean Publishing Company.
Courage, C., & Baxter, C. (2005). Understanding your users: A practical guide to user requirements methods, tools, and techniques. San Francisco, CA: Morgan Kaufmann Publishers.
Coyle, E. J., Clement, N. I., & Garton-Krueger J. (2006). Creating an innovation continuum in the engineering curriculum: EPICS and the EPICS entrepreneurship initiative. Proceedings of the 2006 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Chicago, IL.
Coyle, E. J., Jamieson, L. H., & Oakes, W. C. (2005). EPICS: Engineering projects in community service. International Journal of Engineering Education, 21 (1), 139-150.
Dewey, J. (1938). Experience and education. New York: Collier Books.
Duffy, J., Barrington, L., Moeller, W., Barry, C., Kazmer, D., West, C., & Crespo, V. (2008). Service-learning projects in core undergraduate engineering courses. International Journal for Service Learning in Engineering, 3 (2), 18-41.
Dym, C. L., Agogino, A. M., Eris, O., Frey, D. D., & Leifer, L. J. (2005). Engineering design thinking, teaching, and learning. Journal of Engineering Education, 94, 103-120.
EPICS. (2010). EPICS design process. Retrieved from
Eyler, J., & Giles, D. E., Jr. (1999). Where’s the learning in service-learning? San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Hoffman, R. R., Feltovich, P. J., Ford, K. M., Woods, D. D., Klein, G., & Feltovich, A. (2002). A rose by any other name . . . would probably be given an acronym. IEEE Intelligent Systems, 17 (4), 72-80.
IDEO. (2009). Retrieved from
IDEO. (2010). Human-centered design toolkit (2 nd ed.). Retrieved from
Krippendorff, K. (2006). The semantic turn: A new foundation for design. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press Taylor & Francis Group.
Lima, M. (2000). Service-learning: A unique perspective on engineering education. In E. Tsang (ed.), Projects that matter: Concepts and models for service-learning in engineering (AAHE’s series on service-learning in the disciplines) (pp. 109-117). Washington, DC: American Association for Higher Education.
Maguire, M. (2001). Methods to support human-centered design. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 55 (4), 587-634.
McMartin, F., McKenna, A., & Youseffi, K. (2000). Scenario assignments as assessment tools for undergraduate engineering education. IEEE Transactions on Education, 43 (2), 111-119.
Melton, R. B., Zoltowski, C. B., Cardella, M. E., & Oakes, W. C. (2010). Work in progress—Development of a design task to assess students’ understanding of human-centered design. Proceedings of the 40th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, Washington, DC.
National Academy of Engineering. (2004). The engineer of 2020. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
National Academy of Engineering. (2005). Educating the engineer of 2020. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
National Academy of Engineering. (2008). Grand challenges for engineering. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Norman, D. A. (2002). The design of everyday things. New York: Basic Books.
Paterson K., & Fuchs, V. (2008). Development for the other 80%: Engineering hope. Australasian Journal of Engine

  • Accueil Accueil
  • Univers Univers
  • Ebooks Ebooks
  • Livres audio Livres audio
  • Presse Presse
  • BD BD
  • Documents Documents