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Engineering for social and environmental justice: Scaffolding knowledge during collaborative writing journeys

Cumming-Potvin, W., Baillie, C. and Bowden, J.A. (2013) Engineering for social and environmental justice: Scaffolding knowledge during collaborative writing journeys. International Journal for Infonomics, 1 (1 (Spec.)). pp. 785-791.

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This paper reports findings of a project titled Engineering Education for Social and Environmental Justice (EESEJ), which was funded by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council. A multidisciplinary research team engaged in a range of activities, such as designing and implementing critical problem solving in undergraduate engineering courses and undertaking collaborative writing. Drawing on the writing journeys of a group of authors in the project, this paper utilizes a multi-dimensional theoretical lens to contribute to discussions for developing socially just engineering education and practice. To illustrate these developmental journeys, the analysis applies Green’s [ 1] elaborations about adult learners being scaffolded into new spaces; these spaces are explicated with Vygotsky’s zone of proximal development [2], capability theory [3, 4] and the framework of multiliteracies [5]. Data from semi-structured interviews and one co-author’s reflections emphasised the concept of co-creation as writing team members scaffolded knowledge. Results highlight the dynamic, recursive and transformative nature of cross-disciplinary learning, which dissipates the dichotomy between experts and novices. The multi-dimensional theoretical lens, which acknowledges the complexity of learning on technical, cognitive and sociocultural levels, can be useful for re-invigorating engineering education and practice for the twenty-first century. Whilst the focus of this paper is limited to the writing journeys of a group of EESEJ participants in authentic professional and informal settings, the interweaving of action, reflection, dependence, independence, rationality and emotion is relevant for the broader spectrum of adult learning. To reinvigorate tertiary curricula and graduate development, highlighting these learning principles may facilitate a reframing of engineering for social and environmental justice, which embraces collaboration, synthesis and reflection from within, and outside the profession [6].

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Education
Publisher: Infonomics Society
Copyright: © 2013 Infonomics Society
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