Innovating Capacity for (deweyan) Continuity of Inquiry in the Face of (zimbardoean) Discontinuity Within the Context of Engineering Education Research

Innovating Capacity for (deweyan) Continuity of Inquiry in the Face of (zimbardoean) Discontinuity Within the Context of Engineering Education Research

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Growing awareness of the crises faced by underserved communities in the developing regions of the world has led engineering educators to reflect on how they can contribute solutions to the basic needs of such communities. Student engineers today are searching for opportunities to work with communities in the developing world to improve the living conditions of the multitudes who suffer chronic poverty and live in desperate conditions. The research in this thesis was inspired by the experiences of students working on a project aimed at creating sustainable prosperity through the introduction of visual literacy in a chronically poor community where it was found that such research collaborations can prove to be overwhelming. Viewing these disruptive experiences from the perspectives of Zimbardo's discontinuity theory showed that such unbounded learning environments that expose students to disorienting experiences of discontinuity restrict the students' ability to learn. Viewing the experiences of Zimbardoean discontinuity through Dewey's philosophy of education led to the creation of a research inquiry space that identified the feasibility of restoring continuity of learning through innovation in engineering education research and practices. In this space student and teacher experiences can be visualized as a function of the learning environment and modes of learning and teaching. Engineering education research and practices currently face open questions about preparing students for working with developing communities safely and enabling them to continue learning. This dissertation attempts to respond by asking the following two questions: 1. How can the experiences of discontinuity be shifted to learning experiences? 2. How do student engineers learn under such conditions? To answer these questions, a research project was conceived that brought together undergraduate engineering students at Stanford University and a community of handloom weavers from a chronically poor village in India to collaborate on an engineering design problem faced by the community. The students and weavers together addressed the challenge of creating retrofits for the handloom to make it more ergonomic. The project was implemented in accordance with a framework that was developed to incorporate five project parameters for creating a safe learning environment. The research project data was collected in the form of entries made in reflection journals by the student participants. A coding scheme was developed to observe and analyze the shift from experiences of discontinuity to experiences of learning. In response to the two research questions, the analysis showed that the research project was successful in providing a learning environment that enabled the student engineers to transition out of discontinuities and learn in that process. The learning mechanism was found to be an augmentation of the Deweyan inquiry process resulting in continuity of learning. The future research directions emerging from this project are the creation of a curriculum as well as a learning environment. These will prepare student engineers to work sustainably on problems of the developing world, through collaborating with and learning from local communities. Continued commitment from engineering researchers and educators will, in time, help build sustainable, trusted, collaborative relationships with underserved communities and encourage them to explore their own creative potential to help solve their problems.One problem in articular, regarding a leaking water tap was discussed at length. The stagnant water accumulated around the tap was causing health problems for the families living in close proximity to it. After several hours of self-moderatedanbsp;...

Title:Innovating Capacity for (deweyan) Continuity of Inquiry in the Face of (zimbardoean) Discontinuity Within the Context of Engineering Education Research
Author:Bhavna Hariharan
Publisher:Stanford University - 2011


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