Exploring ways to develop reflective engineers: Toward phronesis-centered engineering education

Jeong Hee Kim, Ryan C. Campbell, Ngan T.T. Nguyen, Roman Taraban, Danny D. Reible, Chongzheng Na

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The purpose of this work-in-progress research paper is to explore how engineering students' phronesis (ethical judgement or practical wisdom) can be fostered in an interdisciplinary graduate course that incorporates the arts and humanities. We present our research findings and implications from the data gathered from an innovative pilot course taught at a university in the south-central United States. Using the philosophical concept of phronesis as a guiding theoretical framework, we examined the writing of ten engineering graduate students who were enrolled in the course. The corpus of data included pre- and post-course essays, autobiographies, and samples of weekly reflective writing completed after reading about and discussing ethical dilemmas and other contextual considerations of engineering work. The data were analyzed inductively and deductively, generating categories and themes from coded data (bottom-up) as well as observing categories and themes implied in the course activities (top-down). The findings indicate preliminary signs concerning the students' development of phronesis through each week's learning activities. For example, they learned to be more open to others' ideas while simultaneously doubtful of their own thinking. They also became more attentive to the question of morality and ethics when considering engineering applications. Particularly, they learned to connect local engineering issues to broader implications. The significance of the study is threefold: First, it shows an example of the value of educational theory and philosophy in advancing engineering education using the philosophical notion of phronesis. Second, the findings suggest the potential effectiveness of the curriculum that integrates the arts and humanities in cultivating engineering students' development of phronesis to become reflective practitioners. Lastly, the implications of our research provide future directions for improving and even rethinking engineering education.

Original languageEnglish
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 15 2019
Event126th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Charged Up for the Next 125 Years, ASEE 2019 - Tampa, United States
Duration: Jun 15 2019Jun 19 2019


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