Fostering Inclusivity in Engineering Education in the South African Context

img_5642-1I spent the first week of July in South Africa, facilitating a two-day Master Class on “Fostering Inclusivity in Engineering Education in the South African Context” and then attending the Research in Engineering Education Symposium, REES 2019, which adopted the theme “Making Connections.” In this blog, I’ll tell you about the workshop and show you photos from the workshop and our travels to Cape Town, where my closest collegue, Inês, and I had a day to explore before heading out to the workshop location.

Fostering inclusivity in engineering education means creating learning environments that are welcoming to everyone, and where all members have equitable access to learning. We asked: How do we support the creation of inclusive environments for all engineering education stakeholders?

img_5752Our interactive Inclusivity workshop focused on supporting engineering educators wanting either to develop inclusive learning and teaching environments or to research the effectiveness of their interventions.

The workshop was facilitated by Shanali Govender from the University of Cape Town (UCT) alongside Inês Direito and myself from University College London (UCL). In addition, John Mitchell (from UCL) and Brandon Collier-Mills (from UTC) provided panel presentations and Mohohlo Tsoeu (UTC) was part of our planning sessions.

This was the eighth and last of a series of EEESCEP workshops. This one was held at Spier Wine Farm, Stellenbosch–a glorious place to visit even during South Africa’s winter!

img_5813-2Twenty-five engineering teachers from all over South Africa attended the workshop and the discussions were truly insightful.

As nervous as I had been leading up to the event–having visited South Africa previously to both study the history of Apartheid in the built environment and grow my understanding of the country’s tumultuous past–this workshop turned out amazingly well.

Participants came in with an endearing openness and desire to make engineering education more welcoming for all. They welcomed the facilitators warmly and openly as well. We all benefited from hearing new perspectives and giving serious thought to things we might do to improve the situation in engineering education, where white male norms predominate.

img_5831-1Drawing on participants’ own experiences with teaching and conducting research in engineering education, we encouraged participants to engage with contemporary and global issues related to inclusivity within engineering education and consider emerging research. Participants reflected upon their own practices and identified inclusivity aims and goals.

Discussions helped all of us identify barriers to inclusivity and develop ways to remove barriers in practice. A participant described the event this way:

The facilitators were excellent in their delivery of the doctrine of inclusivity to engender seeds for policy formulation, innovation, development and practice of engineering education in an ever-changing world.

It is worthy of note that the workshop has begun to provoke a silent revolution in teaching, learning, and research that will seek to enhance economic, social, scientific, infrastructural and holistic development of South Africa, and the world at large in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

The discussion on Inclusivity seeped over into the REES activities, as many of the participants, facilitators, and presenters from the EEESCEP workshop continued on, from the workshop to REES, which started the day after our workshop ended. Being part of both events helped me build stronger ties to the engineering teachers in South Africa and I eagerly await more opportunities to work with them on projects.

Sightseeing in Cape Town

Inclusivity Master Class

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