1. Diane Matt
  2. Grant Project Advisor
  4. WEPAN-Women in Engineering ProActive Network
  1. Gretal Leibnitz
  2. Co-PI & TECAID Project Director
  4. TECAID-Transforming Engineering Culture to Advance..., WEPAN-Women in Engineering ProActive Network

Transforming Engineering Culture to Advance Inclusion and Diversity (TECAID) ...

NSF Awards: 1445076

2017 (see original presentation & discussion)

Adult learners

Cultural change in engineering  is frequently advocated, but difficult to achieve; and strategies are rarely articulated by national and global organizations. The Transforming Engineering Culture to Advance Inclusion and Diversity (TECAID) project provided intensive professional development and facilitated virtual learning communities for department leaders and faculty to help them assume central responsibility for creating and sustaining inclusive, learner-centered educational environments in mechanical engineering departments.  TECAID partners, Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN) and American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), critically selected five (5) mechanical engineering departments for participation; prepared and supported leaders from each for department-wide change; facilitated professional development for twenty-four (24) leaders and faculty members who championed the implementation of research-based change strategies to transform and sustain inclusive department cultures during and after the project.  TECAID contributes to the knowledge base of broadening participation in engineering through three innovative approaches: 1) focus on department leaders and faculty in the largest engineering discipline--mechanical engineering; 2) use of change models that explicitly link knowledge acquisition with intentional actions; and 3) application of a unique combination of topics--change leadership; engineering culture and underrepresentation; and inclusive pedagogies. TECAID advances knowledge and understanding of making intentional, research-based changes to culture in engineering departments. 

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Original Discussion from the 2017 STEM for All Video Showcase
  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    May 16, 2017 | 10:50 a.m.

    This seems like a strategically valuable approach to culture change, very intriguing.  It sounds like you're using "allies" within the departments as the anchors and advocates for further change -- Of your 3 "approaches," which one has been the most productive, and which may be problematic?  I hope other engineers weigh in on this interesting work!

  • Icon for: Gretal Leibnitz

    Gretal Leibnitz

    May 16, 2017 | 07:02 p.m.

    Hi Brian!

    Thanks for your thoughts and support.  Yes, the Mechanical Engineering faculty teams selected are comprised of individuals that could be considered "allies" for diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.  Our project work was founded in teams of Mechanical Engineering faculty interested in effecting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) department culture-change.  We helped these teams build diversity,  equity and inclusion (DEI) knowledge; build organizational change leadership skills; and ultimately apply both (i.e., knowledge about DEI and change leadership) to reshape their department culture.  


    Project outcomes are clear that the process used was not simply formulaic in supporting faculty to apply evidence-based practices to specific issues, but rather provided deeper level change by helping individuals build capacity about DEI issues and how to lead change to support broad culture change on a variety of issues.  


    You mention 3 "approaches" and I am not quite sure what you are referring to?  We have 3 "products" that are forthcoming:  the TECAID faculty DEI leadership preparation model, development resources, and case studies...all of which are valuable and can lead to insight for engineering faculty engaged in diversity, inclusion and equity culture-change work.


    What I value most about this project is that engineering, as a domain, is often targeted for diversity and inclusion efforts but rarely do projects empower engineers to engage in the change needed to create a more diverse, equitable and inclusive culture.  Engineers, as well as DEI and organizational change experts, need to be informed and engaged in making desired change.


    Thank you for your post!

  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    May 17, 2017 | 05:29 a.m.

    Hi, Gretal, thanks for this amplification.  The three "approaches" that I was referring to are in your abstract, thus:" 1) focus on department leaders and faculty in the largest engineering discipline--mechanical engineering; 2) use of change models that explicitly link knowledge acquisition with intentional actions; and 3) application of a unique combination of topics--change leadership; engineering culture and underrepresentation; and inclusive pedagogies. "

  • Icon for: Gretal Leibnitz

    Gretal Leibnitz

    May 17, 2017 | 01:38 p.m.

    Thanks Brian, LOL!  Yes!  You ask a challenging question as to which of the 3 approaches is most productive or problematic.  I guess I would have to say all of the approaches have both productive and problematic elements.  


    To shift engineering academic culture, it is clear that focus needs to be on leaders and faculty and, it makes sense to target the largest engineering discipline--Mechanical Engineering.  That said, I think the TECAID approach would work within any discipline where diversity, equity and inclusion issues emerge, engineering or otherwise.  Most of our Mechanical Engineering teams were highly productive, and, as you can imagine, there were also challenges.  Change produces personal and interpersonal dissonance.  Managing that dissonance productively is key.  So key, that "Constructive Dissonance Cycle" is a core element embedded into the development of the TECAID model, along with resources to help faculty/leaders manage dissonance well.


    Similarly, using change models that link knowledge acquisition AND action is KEY.  It is not unusual for projects to focus primarily on knowledge acquisition.  Helping people translate knowledge into action is part of what we call our "act-learn feedback loop."  It is wonderful to see people acting on learning, AND sometimes that acting creates the dissonance described above.  The Virtual Learning Community, as well as the participant team, have proved beneficial forums for helping people manage interpersonal dissonance created in acting upon new learning.


    Finally, providing a combination of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and leadership, content and skill-building opportunity has been critical.  Engineers are not typically trained in key DEI concepts and usually only gain skill in leading change based upon individual experiences.  To help engineers be successful it is important that they gain understanding in concepts but also self-efficacy around DEI and change-making integral to any culture shift.  Naturally, different people were able to embrace and act upon the concepts and skill-building opportunity to greater and lesser degree.  Regardless, all of our participants benefited, either directly or indirectly, from the process.  


    Our project is unique in seeking to build broad-based skill to effect DEI culture change; all three approaches were necessary but not sufficient unto themselves.  All three approaches brought inherent challenges associated with change.  We teach our participants that the experience of dissonance is a good sign because it means opportunity for growth if managed productively.


    In  your experience, what would you say are key challenges to shifting engineering culture to be more diverse, equitable and inclusive?


    Thanks again for the great question and opportunity to share details of our project!

  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    May 17, 2017 | 02:56 p.m.

    Well, thanks for a really in-depth answer.  This helps me understand your program much more fully. 

       I have to say, I love your comment:  "Change produces personal and interpersonal dissonance," and the insight that this dissonance is both inevitable and actually a learning resource.  (Very Deweyan stance!) It's the sort of conceptual  tool that can help someone take control of, or make sense of, their professional growth throughout their careers.  

  • Icon for: Albert Byers

    Albert Byers

    May 16, 2017 | 10:11 p.m.

    Thank you for sharing this project, and the video was both entertaining and informative. I appreciate the simple but important premise of including engineering professors as part of the change to improve diversity. From your video it would seem that you are achieving your goals--kudos!


    One quick question...you mention a multi-pronged approach, that in part includes virtual learning communities. I've often heard that sustaining these is easier said then done, and meaningful exchanges is sometimes challenging till a rapport is developed, or deftly moderated by someone who knows how to extend and enhance the conversation, etc. Might you share a little how your virtual communities work and how this ties into the larger f2f components (is it an integrated blend and an inter-university community).

    Thank you!

  • Icon for: Gretal Leibnitz

    Gretal Leibnitz

    May 17, 2017 | 01:55 p.m.

    Thanks Albert!  Sometimes the most simple premises end up being the most elegant.  Having worked in the area of STEM culture change for the past decade, I am aware that some projects have engaged engineers, for example, in diversity knowledge building but not partnered with those same engineers to serve directly as agents of engineering culture change.  Knowledge acquisition is foundational, but action is necessary for culture change.  Helping individuals apply their knowledge is a much more complicated process than providing information.  Thank you for your gracious awareness of the significance of our outcomes!


    Yes, virtual learning communities can be challenging.  We know that leadership of the community is key.  Having led a national virtual community of practice for 5 years, I know the importance of having the leader be engaged in the community work with a clear "thumb on the pulse" of key concerns (and successes) of the community.  Rapport is critical and time demanding.  The community is less likely to be optimally functional if structure is imposed from "without" rather than emerge from the group process.  We had the benefit of building and supporting our virtual community with face time.  The fact that the community was small, as well as actively engaged in facilitating learning opportunities for people to be authentic and work with new skills, helped to foster trust, respect and rapport.  The virtual learning community is now sustained through the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Grassroots leadership within the TECAID virtual learning community has emerged.  Motivated, respected, internal leadership has been a key element of sustained engagement.

    Thanks for your insightful question!

    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Albert Byers
  • Icon for: Albert Byers

    Albert Byers

    May 17, 2017 | 09:42 p.m.

    I appreciate you sharing Gretal and it sounds like you have a wonderful skill set and authentic background yourself to develop those virtual communities.


    Allowing them to organically grow from the collective needs of the group is much more engaging and compelling than the often formal top down structures I've seen (moderation skills aside).


    I was fortunate to be on the CS10K advisory group for building community, where Etienne Wenger (communities of practice fame) was also a part of the group. He, Beverly Trayner and Maarten de Laat published an evaluative framework for looking at learning communities titled: Promoting and Assessing Value Creation in Communities and Networks: A Conceptual Framework (Open University Netherlands/Dutch Ministry of Education). I wonder if this might be a lens from which to look through if you desire to evaluate the "contributions" against some yardstick?


    Freely available online: http://wenger-trayner.com/resources/publication...


    All the best of success in the effort! 


  • Icon for: Kathryne Barry

    Kathryne Barry

    K-12 Teacher
    May 17, 2017 | 01:22 p.m.

    Thank you for sharing this video- I found it to be very informative and appreciate how the team ended the video with a link to TECAID to visit for more information.  

    Thanks again!

  • Icon for: Lynn Goldsmith

    Lynn Goldsmith

    May 17, 2017 | 04:32 p.m.

    I really appreciate the thoughtful conversation everyone has been having! I particularly connected with your observations, Gretal and Brian, about change producing dissonance (and dissonance often creating discomfort)--having to deal with dissonance is baked into a lot of the work that we all do, thought perhaps not often addressed as directly as it might be. Could you share some approaches/strategies that TECHAID used to acknowledge and support people working through some of the affective aspects of change?

    I was also curious about whether you see ways that your work might be useful for exploring culture shifts that would support greater inclusion and diversity in the K-12 space.

  • Icon for: Anne Gold

    Anne Gold

    May 17, 2017 | 10:26 p.m.

    You are tackling important issues of departmental culture. It is great to hear that the awareness and knowledge around inclusivity changed. Do you have initial data already on change that happened in the departments both in faculty and in student body? 

    What are your specific strategies to foster a more inclusive environment among the students? Do you feel like this change for students needs to be brought by the faculty or does work with students help the culture?

  • Further posting is closed as the event has ended.

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