Understanding Dimensions of Disciplinary Engineering Culture in Undergraduate Students

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Virginia Tech

The purpose of this study is to understand how engineering students perceive the patterns of culture at the disciplinary level using Hofstede's constructs (power distance, individualism, uncertainty avoidance, and masculinity). The methodology design for this study is mixed methods. More specifically, the design of this study is an explanatory sequential design that begins with the collection and analysis of quantitative data from a version of Hofstede's survey developed by Sharma (2010), followed by subsequent collection and analysis of qualitative data, with the qualitative analysis being informed by preliminary results from the initial quantitative phase. Results from the quantitative study led to a review of the literature regarding Hofstede's main critiques and how other authors have successfully implemented his model in different contexts, and qualitative data collection with semi-structured interviews with undergraduate students. There are three aims of this study, which are addressed and presented in three separate manuscripts. The first aim (Manuscript 1) was identifying if Hofstede's theory of dimensions of national culture can map to academic disciplines. Results from surveying 3388 undergraduate students provided scores on Hofstede's dimensions for each major. Responses matched the national culture of the students rather than the disciplinary culture; therefore, Hofstede's theory didn't map to explain cultural differences in academic majors. The second aim (Manuscript 2) of this study was to review the extensive available literature regarding the critiques of Hofstede's model and its implementation in different settings. Results provided with conceptual, and methodological critiques and misuse of his theory that allowed us to understand the value of his model to understand cultural differences at the national level, as well as the value of the dimensions to inform our qualitative research design. The third aim (Manuscript 3) of this study was to explore students' perceptions of disciplinary engineering culture and how it compared to other disciplines using a qualitative interview protocol that provided rich findings that complement the quantitative results. Results from interviewing 24 students in industrial and systems engineering, electrical and computer engineering, marketing, and industrial design provided with valuable information on how students perceive their disciplinary culture in terms of what it is valued, how they learn, how it is taught, why they learn, how it is going to be used in the workplace, and the reason for select the major. Implications for research and practice in the engineering education field are provided to inform how to make decisions on engineering curriculum, and engineering classrooms and try to find ways to improve some of the issues that engineering education has been facing for the last decades.

Disciplinary culture, engineering culture, engineering education, Hofstede, mixed methods.