While engineering provides basic infrastructure and is a major source of technological innovations, its work is embedded in complex social, cultural, and environmental contexts. Graduate education in engineering typically produces engineers who are highly competent technicians, but who may lack the ability to understand and successfully navigate those contexts. Important skills that may help engineers bring contextual perspectives into their problem solving include the ability to integrate across disciplines, to devise solutions to poorly-defined challenges, and to recognize and address broader societal and global issues. Texas Tech University tested an approach designed to change the way graduate students in engineering conceptualize and reason about their work to better prepare them for real-world complexity. The project used innovative methods, informed by arts and humanities education and grounded in the learning sciences, to help students become more reflective thinkers who have greater awareness of the complex, broader contexts of their work.
The Developing Reflective Engineers through Artful Methods (DREAM) project aimed to help engineers better appreciate uncertainty and to address complex, poorly defined, and under constrained sociotechnical engineering problems. DREAM was an interdisciplinary collaboration of faculty and staff at Texas Tech University from the fields of engineering, education, cognitive psychology, studio art, media/communication, and the museum.