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Tackling gender inclusion of Middle East students in engineering education with Project Based Learning

Shannon Chance (TU Dublin and UCL), Bill Williams (Instituto Politécnico de Setúbal and TU Dublin), and Inês Direito (UCL)

Equity next to Inclusion and Diversity

Research from the US suggests that engineering schools often craft the “the ideal student” as a young, single white male and that this tends to problematically impact minoritized students (Pawley, 2019). Our experience of working in engineering schools in 3 European countries suggests that similar situations can also prevail here.

While SEFI in recent years has given attention to issues of inclusion and diversity we will focus on the third contributor to the IDE acronym: equity, the practice of ensuring that processes and programs are impartial, fair and provide equal possible outcomes for every individual.

Discussing dominance and minority positions via Project-Based Learning (PBL)

We analysed the specific challenges faced by international students from the Middle East studying in Europe. We have studied the experiences of young women from the Middle East with collaborative learning in TU Dublin’s Bachelor of Engineering course by interviewing one cohort of 8 women longitudinally, across four years (Chance & Williams, 2018, 2020).

summarize that it is important in PBL to encourage students to develop a mastery orientation, to equip students with the communication and negotiation skills to disrupt power dynamics, and when appropriate, to intentionally assign students to specific roles in a way that counteracts overt and latent biases.

Our research indicates it is also important not to frame team formation and task allocation in terms of dominant groups straightforwardly ‘making way’ for minoritized groups. We all can do more to consider the implicit advantages people aligned with majority norms receive, and how this may lead them to overlook or even coopt the contributions of people from minoritized groups. For example, white students need to better understand that minority students do want to work on their teams but do not always feel included in the same settings they are accustomed to.

More information about these issues can be found in the following blog about our study, in the references in the text and also in the study by Nguyen et al (2020).

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