Date of Award

Fall 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Education

First Advisor

Alice Pawley

Committee Chair

Alice Pawley

Committee Member 1

Brent Jesiek

Committee Member 2

Ruth Streveler

Committee Member 3

Donald Mitchell


Culturally responsive teaching has been argued to be effective in the education of Indigenous youth. This approach emphasizes the legitimacy of a group's cultural heritage, helps to associate abstract academic knowledge with the group's sociocultural context, seeks to incorporate a variety of strategies to engage students who have different learning styles, and strives to integrate multicultural information in the educational contents, among other considerations. ^ In this work, I explore the outcomes of a culturally responsive introductory engineering short course that I developed and taught to Tibetan students at Tibetan Children's Village of Selakui (in Uttarakhand, India). Based on my ethnographic research in Tibetan communities in northern India, I examine two research questions: (a) What are the processes to develop and implement a pre-college culturally responsive introductory engineering course? and (b) How do Tibetan culture and Buddhism influence the engineering design and teamwork of the pre-college Tibetan students who took the course? ^ I designed then taught the course that featured elementary lectures on sustainability, introductory engineering design, energy alternatives, and manufacturing engineering. The course also included a pre-college engineering design project through which Tibetan high school students investigated a problem at the school and designed a possible solution to it. ^ Drawing from postcolonial studies, engineering studies, engineering and social justice, Buddhist studies, and Tibetan studies, I provide an analysis of my findings. Based on my findings, I conclude that my culturally responsive approach of teaching was an effective method to help students feel that their cultural background was respected and included in a pre-college engineering course; however, some students felt resistance toward the teaching approach. In addition, the culturally relevant content that connected with their ways of living in their school, Tibetan communities, and surroundings helped the students to relate to abstract concepts in familiar settings. Lastly, they appreciated that I brought to the course relevant information about technology and society in India (their host country), engineers' work in industry, technologies used in other contexts as well, and projects that show how engineers can help to alleviate poverty. ^ The findings of my research can inform (a) educators who are interested in integrating culturally responsive activities in their teaching methods, (b) researchers or teachers in ethnic minority schools abroad, (c) educators interested in developing engineering activities or courses for underrepresented ethnic minorities, ethnic diasporas or refugee youth in the United States, and (d) facilitators at multicultural engineering summer camps in the United States.