Engineering Education: A Clear Decision: The Profession Has Reached a Tipping Point with Respect to the Need for Recasting Itself as Engineering Education and the Impetus for Returning to Its Original Focus and Alignment to Engineering at the Post-Secondary Level

By Strimel, Greg J.; Grubbs, Michael E. et al. | Technology and Engineering Teacher, December 2016 | Go to article overview

Engineering Education: A Clear Decision: The Profession Has Reached a Tipping Point with Respect to the Need for Recasting Itself as Engineering Education and the Impetus for Returning to Its Original Focus and Alignment to Engineering at the Post-Secondary Level


Strimel, Greg J., Grubbs, Michael E., Wells, John G., Technology and Engineering Teacher


The core subjects in P-12 education have a common key characteristic that makes them stable over time. That characteristic is a steady content. For example, in the sciences, the basics of biology remain the same--the cell is the basic building block around which organisms are defined, characterized, structured, etc. Similarly, the basics of physics and chemistry are relatively constant, with incremental increases in understanding adding to those basics when impacted by new discoveries over time. The same case can be made for mathematics, whose basic content has been unchanged for centuries and only expanded upon as old theories make way for new. In the same sense, the content of language arts has remained relatively constant over time. As a result, these subjects have maintained their relevancy in P-12 schooling as core knowledge all students should acquire.

This is evident in the periodic name changes that have occurred since Manual Training was included as a P-12 subject in the late 1800s. This focus on manual training did not last long and, by the turn of the century, soon fell out of favor in the context of newer education models and an ever-changing economy. Manual training evolved into Manual Arts, soon thereafter into Industrial Arts, and so on throughout the 1900s. The recurrence of these transitions has become a hallmark of a field attempting to be responsive to constant and rapid technological advances. And, like each advance, the transition made by the field soon became obsolete. This scenario is repeated throughout the history of the profession, as in the most recent case for Industrial Arts Education in a post-industrial era changing to Technology Education and, subsequently, Technology and Engineering Education in the context of STEM education. Again, this pattern of continual name change reflects a field repeatedly attempting to keep pace with evolving content associated with rapid technological advances. Moreover, the uncertainty of such advances makes it difficult to predict changes in associated practices to be taught. This is in stark contrast to core subjects. These subjects remain relevant in P-12 schooling over time because their content is relatively stable, and because of a clear recognition for the contributions they make toward maintaining the vitality of our democratic society.

The latest change in our professional identity occurred in 2010 when we renamed ourselves "Technology and Engineering Education." As in the past, the impetus for the name change was driven by a force external to education, in this case the STEM Education Reform movement that arose in response to national workforce issues. Within this acronym, our field positioned itself to be both the "T" and the "E," and in so doing, has laid the groundwork for a potential paradigm shift. What is most significant to note as a result of this name change is recognition within the field of the strong parallels in content and practice found between the engineering and technology education disciplines. As a result, throughout the nation and at all levels, technology education programs have been incorporating engineering education content at an ever-increasing pace. This is not only evident in the national curricula, but in the extent to which programs across the country have renamed their courses to include engineering in their titles and focusing more on teaching the content of engineering education.

There is no question that our profession has aligned itself with engineering education--an alignment that is providing us with a pathway to firmly establish Engineering Education as a core P-12 subject. And like the other core subjects, one with a recognized content and practice that has remained resilient and constant over time. What remains is to have the profession be bold enough to take the final step in recasting itself as simply the International Engineering Education Association (IEEA) responsible for delivering general education literacy on engineering content and design practices at the P-12 level. …

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