Critical Pedagogical Interventions in Engineering: Deconstructing Hierarchical Dualisms to Expand the Narratives of Engineering Education

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Engineering in the western world is often framed as neutral or apolitical, meaning engineering education trains engineers to take little responsibility for perpetuating society’s biases through our technologies (such as racism, colonialism, and environmental degradation). In this thesis, I argue that as problem solvers and critical thinkers involved in the world’s biggest challenges, it is our ethical responsibility to unmask the hidden belief systems and dominant narratives that currently drive the engineering sector. Within our society, dualisms are embedded across our value systems, such as the dualisms of woman-man, emotion-reason, nature-culture, and social-technical. These dualisms exist as opposites, exclusive, and in a value-hierarchy (i.e. man-reason-culture-technical are typically viewed in exclusive opposition and valued higher than woman-emotion-nature-social). This thesis uses the hierarchical dualisms pedagogical framework to bring light to the normative cultures of engineering education and aims to support engineering education communities in increasing their critical consciousness and becoming aware of dominant value systems. Thus, my primary research question is: How do we design practices that unmask the hierarchical dualisms to build expanded narratives of engineering and engineering education? I answer this question by (1) outlining a framework of hierarchical dualisms and dominant narratives including illustrative case studies; (2) summarizing two pedagogical innovations I designed and implemented to unmask different hierarchical dualisms; and (3) analyzing my own writing for dominant narratives through a discourse analysis. Throughout, this thesis takes a non-traditional research approach to align my methodology with the epistemological assumptions of the research paradigm. I leverage dialogicity, relationality, and storytelling methodologies to describe my journey of doing paradigm shifting work in the field of engineering education. Overall, this thesis found that through increasing critical consciousness, broadening our systems thinking, engaging in interdisciplinary dialogue, being willing to transcend engineering boundaries, and imagining radical futures we can create momentum for emergent change that will foster liberatory education. As educators, students’ four years of undergraduate engineering in academia are our great opportunity to radically transform engineering students’ way of thinking about technology and design, and give them the skills and tools to radically transform the purpose of engineering.
mental wellness, critical consciousness, storytelling, ecofeminism, hierarchical dualisms, anti-colonialism, dominant narratives, normative narratives, engineering justice, feminism, hidden curriculum, relationality, radical futures
Paul, R. M. (2024). Critical pedagogical interventions in engineering: deconstructing hierarchical dualisms to expand the narratives of engineering education (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from