Exploring Transformative Learning Pedagogies to Teach Human-Centered Design: A Collaborative Action Research Approach
In this research, I present the problem that a culture of disengagement endemic in engineering and engineering education (see Cech, 2014) is exacerbated by deeply rooted habits of mind and their underlying assumptions that are at odds with social justice ideals and resistant to change, thus, perpetuating the status quo (see Riley, 2008). Furthermore, current engineering education curricula focusing primarily on mathematics, science, and engineering sciences (see Sheppard, Macatangay, Colby, & Sullivan, 2009) further entrench this culture along with these habits of mind and assumptions. In an attempt to address the culture of disengagement, I propose a framework for humanizing engineering education based on two interrelated elements: 1) helping students grow and develop in multiple dimensions; and 2) reconciling the social and technical nature inherent in engineering and engineering education. To support this framework, I discuss a context (i.e., Human-Centered Design), a theoretical framework (i.e., Transformative/Emancipatory Learning), and a methodology (i.e., Action Research) for transforming teaching and learning that can humanize engineering education according to the proposed framework. Using collaborative action research, I worked with a mechanical engineering professor to teach Human-Centered Design using transformative learning pedagogies to over 300 students enrolled in a design course. Within the context of this study, I used learning processes proposed by Mezirow (1991, 1997) as a lens to help understand how students are learning when transformative learning pedagogies are used to teach HCD to mechanical engineering students. Understanding how students are learning with the help of transformative learning pedagogies helps us learn what it looks like to engage in collaborative action research to teach HCD using transformative learning pedagogies. Findings suggest that the transformative learning pedagogies implemented in this study had the intended affect for which they were designed and challenged students to be open to new points of view. That is, students expressed a more holistic view of engineering that demonstrated their understanding that engineers must understand the social contexts and people they are solving problems for. I coded the students’ reflections on these activities and present a thematic analysis of their points of view ranging from existing points of view to new points of view to transformed points of view. Furthermore, themes emerged that provide insight into how students made meaning of their experiences Finally, a framework is offered for educators, departments, and researcher-practitioners wanting to implement and evaluate transformative learning pedagogies in their courses or considering how to humanize engineering education.
Hynes, Purdue University.
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