Transformative social justice workshops for engineering educators

Format: Workshop
Facilitators: Jon A. Leydens, Juan Lucena, and Jen Schneider
Affiliations: Colorado School of Mines, US
Abstract: This hour-long workshop is designed to engage participants in resolving a complex problem: how do we encourage engineering faculty to understand, value, enact and perform social justice within the contexts of their courses and curricula? If social justice is to be more than an intellectual construct, it needs to be put into action or practice inside the engineering curriculum. But how?

Unlike workshops wherein the presenters come with a set of stock responses, we would like to describe our institutional context and then ask participants to brainstorm ideas for our—and their own—contexts. In short, this is a workshop about how to design a social justice workshop for engineering faculty. Resting underneath the larger question of creating performative social justice workshops are important questions of engagement:

  • In a safe and nonthreatening manner, how do we enable engineering faculty to become aware of their own privileged status?
  • How do we foster experiences of empathy for others whose perspectives have typically been marginalized from mainstream society, including engineering education? And how do we help such faculty see how engineered products and services can liberate or oppress—from the perspective of marginalized others?
  • How can we foster richer understandings of what precludes or promotes the realization and enactment of our own whole, multi-dimensional selves, as well as the selves of our students, colleagues, and others in engineering education?
  • What are best practices for enabling engineering faculty to more fully recognize the interconnected nature of the technical and nontechnical in engineering and actually teach it in their own courses?
  • What incentives can we provide to faculty for incorporating critical pedagogy or other social justice micro- or macro-interventions in their technical courses?
  • How might we best showcase social justice interventions currently occurring in the engineering curriculum? (e.g., those of Caroline Baillie, George Catalano, Donna Riley, etc.).

We hope one outcome of this workshop will be to better understand social justice dimensions, implicit and otherwise, that exist in engineering work, curricula, and professional identities. But more practically, we hope to develop characteristics of transformative social justice workshops that each participant can then adapt and use to create such workshops in their own contexts. Such workshops would be designed to encourage faculty to incorporate social justice dimensions more explicitly in their own course work—that is, to create social justice across the engineering curriculum.

Such transformative workshops are full of promise and peril. The potential benefits and risks engineering faculty run by being involved in such workshops are significant. The ethical dimensions of such work are currently only at a conceptual level but need to be better characterized. Please come join us as we explore together how to create a transformative social justice workshop for engineering faculty.