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This book offers a platform for engineering educators who are interested in implementing a “creative ways of knowing” approach to presenting engineering concepts. The case studies in this book reveal how students learn through creative engagement that includes not only design and build activities, but also creative presentations of learning, such as composing songs, writing poems and short stories, painting and drawing, as well as designing animations and comics. Any engineering educator will find common ground with the authors, who are all experienced engineering and liberal arts professors, who have taken the step to include creative activities and outlets for students learning engineering.



The New Renaissance Artificers: Harnessing the Power of Creativity in the Engineering Classroom

Creativity and interdisciplinary have been identified as critical skills for twenty-first century engineering education. The National Academy of Engineers termed our future engineering graduates as renaissance engineers. Changes for transformative learning in engineering education are taking place slowly across universities. To prepare the renaissance engineers of the future we look to the past, where renaissance artificers embraced art, technology, and science. This phenomenon was not isolated, but rather the supremely creative culmination of a long process. We are challenged to open the door to our students to an education that combines art, technology, and science as united phenomena which transform our classrooms into workshops and studios bursting with activity. Attempts to harness the power of creativity in the engineering classroom are more widespread than formal literature indicates. Creative faculty find ways to let our students take risks, collaborate, and create. We have been serenaded by students with songs about the virtues of thermodynamic principles. We have watched examples of scientific events played out in films. We have read poems penned by students that lyrically explain the four laws of thermodynamics. Through their innovative DNA, our students find beauty is truth in art and in engineering.
Diana Bairaktarova

The Engineers’ Orchestra: A Conductorless Orchestra for Our Time

Performance skills—leadership, teamwork, and communication—can make or break an engineering career. Critical for success in life, they empower engineering students to reach their greatest promise as professionals, citizens, and individuals. But how to develop these skills in engineering students through experiential practice? Blurring the line between art and science offers one route via creative engagement: playing in a conductorless orchestra. A conductorless orchestra cultivates leadership, teamwork, and communication week-in and week-out during rehearsals and concerts. The only conductorless orchestra in the world composed of engineers currently resides at Olin College of Engineering, Needham, MA. Its rationale and blueprint nevertheless translate to other institutions. Developed over the past 14 years, that blueprint features a set of core values with clear expectations, a student-focused organizational structure, bonding and team-building pursuits, seriously fun musical games, and professional feedback. In short, the Engineers’ Orchestra offers engineer-musicians a project-based learning lab where they build—emotionally and intellectually—effective leadership, collaboration, and communication, while doing something they love—creating music.
Diana Dabby

Science Fiction as Platform for Problem-Based Learning and Teaching Writing as Design

This chapter chronicles how my approach to teaching writing shifted in response to interactions with students and professors in the visual arts and engineering. It also describes what I learned as I grew to understand how these seemingly disparate disciples are connected through the task of writing. By examining my own creative process and its impact on my teaching through the language and concerns of design-based disciplines, I was able to develop a way of talking about writing pedagogy that resonated with both professors and students in design-based fields. This resonance is the result of a shared interest in problem solving and design thinking. Here, I demonstrate for others how conversations across disciplines might enhance and be enhanced by design-based writing assignments, creating occasions for interdisciplinary conversations between faculty members and their students. In my discussion, I provide full assignments and examples of student writing, unpack the writing studies concept of “Writing as Design” in relation to its Engineering counterpart, and propose suggestions for structuring, implementing, and creating design-based writing assignments.
Heather Marcelle Crickenberger

Writing as Knowing: Creative Knowing Through Multiple Messaging Modes in an Engineering Technical Communications Course

Writing, speaking, and listening are skills integral to securing a job and performing the work of an engineer. We assert that these communicative activities and abilities are not just tools and channels by which engineering concepts and processes are transferred from one individual to another. Rather, writing and communicating engineering concepts and processes constitute what engineers know. We argue that technical writing courses, and all engineering curricula, should foster the development of communication skills and technical engineering knowledge in tandem by providing students with writing and communicative scenarios in which audience, purpose, and context are understood to be inseparable from the technical subject matter conveyed. In this chapter, we establish our argument in two moves. First, we review the existing literature on writing as knowing, communicating in multiple modes, and the transferability of communication skills to a variety of contexts and purposes. We then illustrate how our engineering students develop transferrable communication skills through three assignments taught in our technical communication courses. By asking students to engage with and communicate their engineering knowledge in this way, students are better poised to understand, engage, and create in the complex and demanding world of engineering.
Jennifer L. Herman, Lynn Hall, Deborah Kuzawa, Leah Wahlin, Mary Faure

The Engineering of a Writing Assignment: Optimizing the Research Paper in an Introductory Chemical Engineering Course in the United Arab Emirates

This case study investigates professor and student perceptions surrounding an existing writing assignment—a research paper—in an introductory chemical engineering course at an American liberal arts university in the United Arab Emirates. Drawing on observation, survey, and interview data, this naturalistic study provides insight into the sociocultural and pedagogical variables that affect professor and student construal of this research paper and offers insight into adapting American university curriculum to local needs in a context where many students and faculty negotiate disparate cultural assumptions, are used to different pedagogical modes, and lack confidence in their English writing skills. While limited to one course, and indeed, only one assignment, this study highlights how the stakeholders of this assignment—the professor, the students, and the writing fellow—respond to this research paper to mediate the tensions between social–cultural and institutional context, meet the challenges of American-style university writing, and develop student agency and instill an engineering identity. Specific implications for optimizing the assignment to support student investment, foster learner independence, cultivate an engineering identity, and align expectations with first year composition (FYC) are highlighted.
Lynne Ronesi

Creativity and Identity in the Construction of Professional Portfolios

In this qualitative study, we explore acts of creative identity construction by focusing on the digital portfolios of engineering graduate students as they integrate research, teaching, and service with personal beliefs and experiences. We employ theoretical lenses of identity construction as performative and fluid, and self-authorship as intentional meaning making in that process. Our findings indicate two types of creative identity construction. First, the participants construct professional identities by drawing together and commenting on various experiences, values, and passions they select to represent their professional selves. Second, and equally important, the students use portfolios to construct an identity for the profession of engineering itself, not only through explicit engineering philosophies, but also through the ways in which they describe their work and their values. Both sets of constructions represent creative acts of engineering identity work. We conclude that the discursive acts that students undertake when they pair evidence of their achievements with narrative reflections serve as sites of identity construction that allow students the time and the framework to intentionally construct their career trajectories, their personal development, and the various facets of their professional roles. Constructing a portfolio is creative act of self-authorship that allows students to integrate their many intersecting identities and craft wholly new and unique ways of being an engineer.
Lisa D. McNair, Marie C. Paretti, Christopher Gewirtz

Uneasy Stories: Critical Reflection Narratives in Engineering Education

To respond to the calls of governmental, academic, and industrial leaders for critical changes in engineering education, engineering programs throughout the country refocused their mission and aspiration to include explicit statements about supporting development of engineers who are not only experts in their fields but also possess critical thinking and related skills. However, operationalization of these mission statements has been problematic, if not impossible, for most institutions. Using two case studies to drive its argument, this chapter spotlights one model for bringing critical into development of critically reflective engineers. We describe the ways in which a course on critical reflection embedded within the formal engineering curriculum that nonetheless allows for cross-pollination between formal and informal aspects of student experience at Olin College of Engineering allows for critical learning opportunities. Using Carper’s framework, we demonstrate how “personal way of knowing” can be integrated with professional ways of knowing to support development of more critically reflective engineer—bringing to the fore other ways of knowing, critical and creative, in engineering education. We further share a bit of our respective stories underscoring what motivates us to promote critical reflection in academia, and how such reflection transformed our two specific stories of integrated vision for change.
Gillian Epstein, Yevgeniya V. Zastavker

Ethical Dilemmas in the Engineering Writing Classroom

Ethical engagements in engineering education typically take on a form where students approach and write about ethics with the assumption that ethics is a realm apart from engineering. What would it mean to ask engineering students to consider ethics an essential part of all of their work, and to think of engineering creativity as an implicitly ethical field? This study begins by returning to Steven B. Katz’s (1992) influential essay “The Ethic of Expediency: Classical Rhetoric, Technology, and the Holocaust,” offering an alternate, rhetorical model for how to approach ethics with engineers as an urgent necessity. It then analyzes, as an instructive example, the pitfalls of a commonly used engineering writing textbook, David F. Beer and David A. McMurrey’s A guide to writing as an engineer (4th ed.) (2014), showing how ethics can become supplemental priority for engineering pedagogy despite institutional calls to prioritize ethics in engineering education. It also explores the larger theoretical issue of why this is so, citing warnings by Erin A. Cech (Science, Technology, and Human Values 39:42-72, 2014), Olivia Walling (2015), and a new study by Diego Gambetta and Steffen Hertog (Engineers of jihad: The curious connection between violent extremism and education, 2016) that limited ethical training may be a serious professional and personal liability for engineers. Finally, presenting student work produced in an engineering writing course at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) involving creative “devil’s advocate” ethics assignments, it shows how defending potentially problematic technologies can help students develop an awareness of how ethical considerations can generate legitimate ideas for new engineering solutions.
Kevin C. Moore

Creative Ways of Knowing and the Future of Engineering Education

Within previous chapters of this book, members of the engineering education community describe emerging educational shifts in engineering teaching that draw on creativity and many ways of knowing. In this chapter, we project the future of these shifts using the voices of students within a graduate-level practicum class in engineering education who are embarking on their teaching careers. In this course, students were asked to review a draft chapter of the current text, provide a scholarly critique of the chapter, and write a reflection about the ways in which their teaching practices have been informed by this and other existing literature. This chapter presents the reflections of five students and serves to encourage continued work in this area as well as inspire creative ways of teaching and knowing throughout engineering education.
Cassandra Groen, Christopher Gewirtz, Adetoun Taiwo, Lindy Cranwell, Rabih Younes


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