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Twitter Chat 6/12/13 – Engineering Culture

bb_twitterchatJoin us on June 12th at 8PM Eastern for our weekly #BigBeacon Twitter Chat where educators, engineers, and students alike come together to discuss topics in engineering education. This week the topic is on engineering culture. Participants will be challenged to identify scenarios that can motivate, inspire, and initiate change, challenging the status quo and transforming engineering education.

Over the past few weeks and months, the topic of engineering culture has bubbled to the surface as a topic of interest to our participants. It seems that engineering culture, that of both industry, and that of education, plays a tremendous role how we recruit, develop, foster, and maintain engineers. This topic is going to be an open, and free flowing topic, where we share our stories of how we perceive engineering culture (as students or as professionals), and how we can

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begin to identify, as change agents, methods to challenge the status quo and transform engineering education.

This week, I am excited to introduce to you a newcomer to our chat – a friend, colleague, and fellow engineering education researcher: Dr. Mary Pilotte.

Meet our Guest Researcher, Dr. Mary Pilotte [@MaryPilotte]

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Dr. Mary Pilotte is a colleague of mine from Purdue University, who just finished her Ph.D. in Engineering Education! Congratulations, Dr. Pilotte! Her dissertation research was titled: “Engineering—Defining and differentiating its Unique Culture.”

From her executive summary research overview:

This proposed quantitative study will examine aspects of engineering culture and social norms related to engineering practice in the workplace. The goal of the study is to describe factors and their inter-relationships that may be influencing and directing engineering behaviors. In particular, we hope to examine practices that are specific to social integration into the engineering workgroup, day-to-day communicat ion, and knowledge sharing/transfer. Results of this study will benefit the industrial sector by generating insights for increasing knowledge sharing and transfer in the context of a transitioning engineering workforce.

Using the six dimensions of cultural practice (read more in the complete summary) and results from this study, Dr. Pilotte reports for her sample population the engineering culture is characterized as:

 more results than process oriented,

 slightly more employee than job oriented,

 slightly more professional than parochial,

 more open than closed,

 somewhat more tightly controlled than loose,

 nearly perfectly balanced, normative to pragmatic.

A few specific findings:

Though there were some differences noted among genders across the cultural dimensions, the cultural differences were not found to be statistically significant. In general, this seems to indicate that for those who choose to work in the engineering environment, they share a mutually defined perception of the culture, in spite of gender, except in very specific contexts and settings.

This study yielded no statistically significant generational differences across the six cultural dimensions when looking at generational categories of Baby Boomer, Generation X, and Millennials. This seems to suggest that while individually our engineering work practices may differ to some extent (i.e. how and what we use to communicate

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with at work), on whole, across these three generations we perceive the culture to be quite uniform, perhaps dismissing the individual differences we observe around us.

Although there were 17 distinct engineering disciplines represented in the 339 person sample population, there were no statistically significant differences detected across any of the cultural dimensions between the engineering disciplines.

Read her complete Executive Summary here: 2013 Final Executive Summary Culture Study

Here are some questions for reflection:

As an engineer, engineering educator, or engineering student, how do you perceive engineering culture?
Did your cultural experience as an engineering student match that of industry?
What are some positive experiences you have regarding the culture of engineering?
What are some negative experiences you have regarding the culture of engineering?
Why do you think it is important that we understand and classify the culture of engineering?
How does the culture of engineering influence the participation women, minorities, and other under-represented groups?
How can we transform the culture of engineering to meet our needs?
What other questions would you like to see on this chat? Please leave your comments on this post.

Suggested Reading

Read Dr. Mary Pilotte’s Executive Summary on her Engineering Culture Research here: 2013 Final Executive Summary Culture Study

How to Twitter Chat

If you’ve never twitter chatted before, don’t worry; it’s very easy. First, get a twitter account if you don’t already have one and sign into it. At 8pm ET on Wednesday go to and type #BigBeacon into the search box on twitter. Thereafter all the tweets with the hashtag #BigBeacon will show up on your twitter page. To participate, simply express your opinion by sending a tweet and be sure to append the hashtag #BigBeacon so other members of the twitter chat see your posting. Alternatively, sign into the free service, type in the hashtag #BigBeacon, and tweetchat will automate the search and hashtag append functions for you.

Join us!

Join us on Wednesday, June 12 at 8pm ET for the #BigBeacon twitter chat!

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