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Shifting the focus. Incorporating knowledge about Aboriginal engineering into main stream content

Conference Paper


Abstract


  • Structured Abstract

    BACKGROUND OR CONTEXT

    The concept of 'Aboriginal engineering' has had little exposure in conventional engineering

    education programs, despite more than 40,000 years of active human engagement with the

    diverse Australian environment. The work reported in this paper began with the premise that

    Indigenous Student Support Through Indigenous Perspectives Embedded in Engineering

    Curricula (Goldfinch, et al 2013) would provide a clear and replicable means of encouraging

    Aboriginal teenagers to consider a career in engineering. Although that remains a key

    outcome of this OLT project, the direction taken by the research had led to additional insights

    and perspectives that have wide implications for engineering education more generally.

    There has only been passing reference to the achievements of Aboriginal engineering in

    current texts, and the very absence of such references was a prompt to explore further as

    our work developed.

    PURPOSE OR GOAL

    Project goals focused on curriculum-based change, including development of a model for

    inclusive teaching spaces, and study units employing key features of the model. As work

    progressed we found we needed to understand more about the principles and practices

    informing the development of pre-contact Aboriginal engineering strategies for sustaining life

    and society within the landscape of this often harsh continent. We also found ourselves being

    asked 'what engineering did Aboriginal cultures have?' Finding that there are no easy-toaccess

    answers, we began researching the question, while continuing to engage with

    specific curriculum trials.

    APPROACH

    Stakeholders in the project had been identified as engineering educators, potential Aboriginal

    students and Aboriginal communities local to Universities involved in the project. We

    realised, early on, that at least one more group was involved - all the non-Aboriginal students

    in engineering classes. This realisation, coupled with recognition of the need to understand

    Aboriginal engineering as a set of viable, long term practices, altered the focus of our efforts.

    Rather than focusing primarily on finding ways to attract Aboriginal engineering students, the

    shift has been towards evolving ways of including knowledge about Aboriginal practices and

    principles in relevant engineering content.

    DISCUSSION

    This paper introduces the model resulting from the work of this project, explores its potential

    influence on engineering curriculum development and reports on implementation strategies.

    The model is a static representation of a dynamic and cyclic approach to engaging with

    Aboriginal engineering through contact with local communities in regard to building

    knowledge about the social beliefs underlying Aboriginal engineering principles and

    practices.

    Ways to engage engineering educators, students and the wider community are evolving

    through the continuing work of the project team and will be reported in more detail in the

    paper.

    RECOMMENDATIONS/IMPLICATIONS/CONCLUSION

    While engineering may be considered by some to be agnostic in regard to culture and social

    issues, the work of this project is drawing attention to the importance of including such issues

    into curriculum materials at a number of levels of complexity.

    The paper will introduce and explore the central concepts of the research completed to date,

    as well as suggesting ways in which engineering educators can extend their knowledge and

    understanding of Aboriginal engineering principles in the context of their own specialisations

Publication Date


  • 2015

Citation


  • Leigh, E., Goldfinch, T., Dawes, L., Prpic, K., McCarthy, T. & Kennedy, J. (2015). Shifting the focus. Incorporating knowledge about Aboriginal engineering into main stream content. 26th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education – AAEE2015 (pp. 641-650). Geelong, VIC: School of Engineering, Deakin University.

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/eispapers/5871

Start Page


  • 641

End Page


  • 650

Place Of Publication


  • http://www.aaee2015.com.au/

Abstract


  • Structured Abstract

    BACKGROUND OR CONTEXT

    The concept of 'Aboriginal engineering' has had little exposure in conventional engineering

    education programs, despite more than 40,000 years of active human engagement with the

    diverse Australian environment. The work reported in this paper began with the premise that

    Indigenous Student Support Through Indigenous Perspectives Embedded in Engineering

    Curricula (Goldfinch, et al 2013) would provide a clear and replicable means of encouraging

    Aboriginal teenagers to consider a career in engineering. Although that remains a key

    outcome of this OLT project, the direction taken by the research had led to additional insights

    and perspectives that have wide implications for engineering education more generally.

    There has only been passing reference to the achievements of Aboriginal engineering in

    current texts, and the very absence of such references was a prompt to explore further as

    our work developed.

    PURPOSE OR GOAL

    Project goals focused on curriculum-based change, including development of a model for

    inclusive teaching spaces, and study units employing key features of the model. As work

    progressed we found we needed to understand more about the principles and practices

    informing the development of pre-contact Aboriginal engineering strategies for sustaining life

    and society within the landscape of this often harsh continent. We also found ourselves being

    asked 'what engineering did Aboriginal cultures have?' Finding that there are no easy-toaccess

    answers, we began researching the question, while continuing to engage with

    specific curriculum trials.

    APPROACH

    Stakeholders in the project had been identified as engineering educators, potential Aboriginal

    students and Aboriginal communities local to Universities involved in the project. We

    realised, early on, that at least one more group was involved - all the non-Aboriginal students

    in engineering classes. This realisation, coupled with recognition of the need to understand

    Aboriginal engineering as a set of viable, long term practices, altered the focus of our efforts.

    Rather than focusing primarily on finding ways to attract Aboriginal engineering students, the

    shift has been towards evolving ways of including knowledge about Aboriginal practices and

    principles in relevant engineering content.

    DISCUSSION

    This paper introduces the model resulting from the work of this project, explores its potential

    influence on engineering curriculum development and reports on implementation strategies.

    The model is a static representation of a dynamic and cyclic approach to engaging with

    Aboriginal engineering through contact with local communities in regard to building

    knowledge about the social beliefs underlying Aboriginal engineering principles and

    practices.

    Ways to engage engineering educators, students and the wider community are evolving

    through the continuing work of the project team and will be reported in more detail in the

    paper.

    RECOMMENDATIONS/IMPLICATIONS/CONCLUSION

    While engineering may be considered by some to be agnostic in regard to culture and social

    issues, the work of this project is drawing attention to the importance of including such issues

    into curriculum materials at a number of levels of complexity.

    The paper will introduce and explore the central concepts of the research completed to date,

    as well as suggesting ways in which engineering educators can extend their knowledge and

    understanding of Aboriginal engineering principles in the context of their own specialisations

Publication Date


  • 2015

Citation


  • Leigh, E., Goldfinch, T., Dawes, L., Prpic, K., McCarthy, T. & Kennedy, J. (2015). Shifting the focus. Incorporating knowledge about Aboriginal engineering into main stream content. 26th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education – AAEE2015 (pp. 641-650). Geelong, VIC: School of Engineering, Deakin University.

Ro Metadata Url


  • http://ro.uow.edu.au/eispapers/5871

Start Page


  • 641

End Page


  • 650

Place Of Publication


  • http://www.aaee2015.com.au/