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Academic and professional values in engineering education: Engaging with history to explore a persistent tension
KTH, School of Education and Communication in Engineering Science (ECE), Learning.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8664-6854
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The tension between academic and professional aims of engineering education is a remarkably consistent challenge facing engineering educators. Here, some historical roots of this issue are traced through the life and work of Carl Richard Söderberg (1895 - 1979), who emigrated from Sweden to the U.S. for an illustrious industrial and academic career. While Söderberg was a proponent for a more science-based curriculum, his rationale was related to solving real professional problems, and he would come to criticise the distancing of engineering education from engineering practice. Söderberg’s views are compared to a present-day reform concept for engineering education, the CDIO approach, founded by MIT and three Swedish universities. The similarities show the persistence of the issue, as many of Söderberg’s ideals, arguments, and proposed strategies, are fully recognisable in the current discussion. Further, Söderberg and CDIO share the ideal of mutually supporting professional and disciplinary preparation, implying that the tension should not be a zero-sum game. The paths to this ideal were different, however, as Söderberg wanted to integrate theoretical aspects to improve an overly practical education, while CDIO is about improving an overly theoretical education by integrating also other necessary professional aspects.

Keywords [en]
Engineering education, academic and professional aims, history of reform, Carl Richard Söderberg, CDIO, MIT, Chalmers
National Category
Engineering and Technology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-217275OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-217275DiVA, id: diva2:1154901
Note

QC 20171106

Available from: 2017-11-06 Created: 2017-11-06 Last updated: 2017-11-07Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Exploring the dual nature of engineering education: Opportunities and challenges in integrating the academic and professional aspects in the curriculum
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring the dual nature of engineering education: Opportunities and challenges in integrating the academic and professional aspects in the curriculum
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Engineering education is both academic, emphasising theory in a range of subjects, and professional, preparing students for engineering practice. Ideally, these aspects are also in a meaningful relationship in the curriculum, but the dual nature ideal is simultaneously a source of tensions. This theme is explored in the context of engineering education development, represented by the CDIO (Conceive, Design, Implement, Operate) approach. Cases on programme and course level illustrate how the dual nature ideal is pursued in the integrated curriculum. CDIO is also compared with PBL (problem/project-based learning), and opportunities to further emphasise research in the CDIO community are explored.

Two critical accounts suggest widening the perspective from curriculum development per se, to the organisational conditions. First, the views of Carl Richard Söderberg (1895-1979) are compared with CDIO, showing considerable similarities in ideals, arguments, and strategies. This leads to a critique of the swinging pendulum metaphor. Then, experiences of unsustainable change leads to a model called organisational gravity, explaining the stability of programmes and implying two change strategies, with different availability, risks, resource demands, and sustainability of results.

Refuting a rationalist view on organisation, an institutional logics perspective is used to analyse the tensions within engineering education. It is suggested that the logics of the academic profession dominates over the logics of the engineering profession, hence favouring “teaching theory” over “teaching professionals”. The integrated curriculum strategy is contingent on educators’ ability to unite theoretical and professional aspects in courses, and on the collegial capacity for coordination. Finally, the CDIO initiative is conceptualised as a field-level driver of institutional innovation, identifying some strategies for legitimacy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2017. p. 92
Series
TRITA-ECE ; 2017:2
Keywords
engineering education, professional education, dual nature, engineering education development, CDIO Initiative, CDIO approach, CDIO Standards, PBL, engineering education research, Carl Richard Söderberg, organisational gravity, institutional logics
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Technology and Learning
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-217315 (URN)978-91-7729-596-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-12-13, Salongen, KTHB, Osquars backe 31, Stockholm, 14:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

QC 20171108

Available from: 2017-11-08 Created: 2017-11-07 Last updated: 2017-11-10Bibliographically approved

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Edström, Kristina

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