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History and Philosophy of Engineering Education


Credit Hours:


Learning Objective:

History and philosophy are bodies of knowledge and modes of inquiry that both shape and are shaped by their socio-cultural contexts. They are more than a chronology of events or grand statements - they are lenses for illuminating epistemologies, ontologies, and axiologies of engineering, or the principles, ideas, and methods that underlie what it means to know engineering, to be an engineer, practice engineering, and prepare others for engineering practice (e.g., instruction). It is through this inquiry process that we hope you begin to articulate your own role(s) in shaping engineering education, as well as exploring ways of connecting your research and teaching interests. Our goal is to provide a foundation for deeper investigation. While we realize that engineering has a long and inspired global history, we will focus on the early 1800s to present, and mainly in the U.S. We encourage participants to bring their own historical and global perspectives. This class is designed to help participants:
  1. develop a culture of critical reflection, intellectual curiosity, tolerance of ambiguity, scholarly engagement, and learning together
  2. identify and understand tools to inquire into the history and philosophy of engineering education, and develop skills for using these tools
  3. make use of these tools to problematize different perspectives as well as synthesize perspectives to form arguments for both oneself and others about the nature of engineering, education, and engineering education
  4. develop a perspective or identity as an agent of change in shaping engineering as a profession, the education of engineers, and the work of engineering education researchers
  5. form coherent arguments through the genre of academic writing and the use of peer feedback.


Aligned with these objectives are a set of "core ideas" or standpoints we hope participants take away:

  1. The definition and boundaries of "engineering" are not given or fixed but negotiated over time.
  2. Big questions about education - who should be educated, how should they be educated, for what reasons, and who should pay - need to be asked and answered by each generation (and often multiple times).
  3. Who we define as an engineer, and who we educate to be engineers is a gendered, raced, and classed process, which is deeply embedded into our very notion of what an engineer is.
  4. The content and philosophy of engineering is defined by people who participate in it, and by people who make decisions to not participate in it based on those definitions.
  5. The history of engineering as a field is extensive, and across the globe.
  6. Engineering education has a varied history in the US and is done differently across the globe.
  7. Engineering education research may feel like a new field, but it is neither new nor centered on the US. Those entering this field should know their ???roots??? as they take on roles in shaping the field.
  8. Writing and reading are critical to your future work (graduate study and beyond), and there are genres or ways of writing you need to develop skills in - in both reading and writing.

As such, course discussions, activities, and reflections are centered on these questions:
  1. what is (and should be) engineering
  2. what is (and should be) the purpose and process of engineering education
  3. who gets to be an engineer (and who should be)
  4. what and who shape these decisions (and what/who should shape these decisions)?

Tools for thinking will include:
  • finding meaning and clarity in situations filled with tensions and paradox
  • seeing the organizational power of categories and boundary work for organizing social experience
  • the idea that it is valuable to know whether an argument is a descriptive one or a normative one

Throughout this course, we will stay committed to the ideas that you should do work that matters and is useful to you, that we are social actors who are also part of an intellectual community from which we learn and to which we should give back, that it is valuable to figure out what you need to do to write better, that you can find and should look for value in things with which you disagree, and that teaching and learning is a responsive endeavor.This course should help participants meet the following ENE graduate competencies:
  • Synthesize knowledge
  • Communicate knowledge
  • Think critically and reflectively
  • Participate actively in professional community

Topics Covered:

Week 1: Welcome and introduction
Week 2: Laying the groundwork - mapping arguments
Week 3: Early engineering education in the US
Week 4: Engineering education in the Progressive Era
Week 5: Bounding engineering problems
Week 6: Educational epistemology and ontology
Week 7: Engineering educational research
Week 8: Ethics and moral education of engineers
Week 9: Justice in engineering education
Week 10: How does engineering education reform happen?
Week 11: Writing argument papers
Week 12: Multicultural and international education
Week 13: Social justice in engineering education
Week 14: No class (Thanksgiving) - work on final papers
Week 15: PechaKucha Presentations
Week 16: Synthesis


This is a course for students enrolled in graduate education, have a bachelor's degree in engineering or related STEM field, and be working towards a PhD or MS in engineering education.

Applied / Theory:

50 / 50

Web Address:


Weekly readings, small group meeting, reflection discussion posts, and synchronous class meeting.


The main assignment for the course is a individual synthesis paper on a book that constitutes part of the engineering education canon focusing on history, philosophy, or sociology of engineering or engineering education. This prepares you for a genre of writing that most engineering students do not have much experience with, yet is important for graduate-level work in engineering education. You will choose a book from a list of suggestions, or propose your own. There will be a series of deliverables due across the term to support the final paper.




Official textbook information is now listed in the Schedule of Classes. NOTE: Textbook information is subject to be changed at any time at the discretion of the faculty member. If you have questions or concerns please contact the academic department.

Computer Requirements:

ProEd Minimum Computer Requirements

Other Requirements:

Video-conferencing, FlipGrid, Google Drive, and associated tools.

ProEd Minimum Requirements: