diversity, equity, inclusion, oppression, liberation, critical pedagogy, liberative pedagogy, capitalism, socio-economic status
Background. Higher educational programs in engineering today are seeking to correct disproportionately low enrollment and success rates of minoritized students. However, most diversity-related programming fails to address systems of structural oppression that cause particular students to be underrepresented in higher education. In addition, typical engineering pedagogical methods fail to address the reality and impacts of structural oppression, as educators cannot overcome the effects of structurally oppressive systems through traditional methods of controlling classroom and curriculum.
Purpose. This paper explores the relationship between existing critical and liberative theories and engineering educational systems and re-frames the goals and problems of diversity and equity within engineering education from a critical and liberative lens.
Methodology/Approach. We describe existing liberative pedagogies and their aim to dismantle oppressive systems through recognition of hegemonic structures, critical classroom discourse, and opportunities to build solidarity. We present an overview of previous uses of these pedagogies in engineering classrooms under the premise of Freirean critical theory, which is class-based, and other anti-oppressive theories based on race, gender, and sexual orientation. We propose a new model that situates these theories relative to one another within the broader classification of identity-based theories.
Conclusions. Class-based exploitation under capitalist economic and governmental structures is identified as the root cause of inequitable educational outcomes. Thus, in order to correct inequities in education, the role of current educational systems in the perpetuation of capitalist oppression must itself be addressed. This will require pedagogical changes as well as explicitly restructuring the goals of engineering education to include equity and solidarity.
Implications. Through an embrace of critical and liberative theories and their accompanying pedagogies, engineering educators and engineering education researchers can plant the seeds for change. When engineers develop the skills necessary to recognize and combat oppression, they will be able to work toward liberation for all oppressed peoples.
South Dakota State University
© American Society for Engineering Education, 2020. Posted with permission.
Bowen, Corin L. and Johnson, Aaron W., "Critical and Liberative Theories: Applications in Engineering Education" (2020). ASEE North Midwest Section Annual Conference 2020 Publications. 7.