WIP: Developing an arts-informed approach to understand students’ perceptions of engineering


This work in progress paper describes preliminary results of a methodology used at three different universities to explore students’ perceptions of engineering through drawings. One of the primary objectives of introductory and foundational engineering courses is to help students develop a sense of identity and belonging within the field of engineering, and understand basic engineering knowledge and skills. Hence, it is crucial to understand students’ preconceptions of the engineering discipline when they start their academic program. However, many students entering the program have narrow preconceptions or limited knowledge about the field. One challenge instructors face is how to facilitate students’ thinking about their own perceptions of engineering in a meaningful way. A typical activity to help the students understand their perceptions of the engineering discipline is to ask them, “What is engineering?” However, instructors have been frustrated by the lack of depth in students’ responses. This paper explores a different methodology to understand students’ perceptions of the engineering discipline by taking an arts-informed approach; instead of writing down their perceptions or talking with a peer, students are first asked to draw a response to the question “What is engineering?” Data were collected and analyzed using an arts-based open-coding approach. Initial results provide a representation of students’ preconceptions about the discipline in terms of human, technical, process-based, and holistic/global aspects, which provide further evidence that arts-based methods are effective in capturing student deep perceptions of the engineering discipline.

Frontiers in Education 2022