Fostering Subjectivity in Engineering Education: Philosophical Framework and Pedagogical Strategies

  • Cecilia MoloneyEmail author
  • Cecile Badenhorst
  • Janna Rosales
Part of the Philosophy of Engineering and Technology book series (POET, volume 31)


This paper argues that fostering subjectivity in engineering education will aid engineers in understanding the connections between their own life values and motivations and their career choice and development. By fostering subjectivity in engineering education, we mean linking the person who studies with what they are studying, a definition that can be situated within the philosophy and methodology of Bernard Lonergan. This paper also presents evidence for pedagogical strategies to foster subjectivity based on our definition of subjectivity in engineering education. We analyze data collected during a pilot offering of a co-curricular course for engineering graduate students (the Lead by Design Institute) to determine to what extent the Lead by Design pedagogy fostered subjectivity. The paper concludes with reflections on implications for future engineering education, from the philosophical framework of Lonergan’s model of the human subject, and from our analysis of the Lead by Design pedagogy.


Engineering education Integrative pedagogy Subjectivity Generalized empirical method Bernard Lonergan’s model of the human subject 



This research was supported by a grant from the Hebron Diversity Fund 2013-2014 and by an award in 2014 from the Quick Start Fund for Public Engagement (Memorial University). We acknowledge with thanks the participation of the Engineering graduate students in the Lead by Design Institute in April 2014, as well as the contributions of guest speakers and other supporters. Ethical approval of this research was granted by the Interdisciplinary Committee on Ethics in Human Research at Memorial University.


  1. Badenhorst, C. M. (2007). Research writing: Breaking the barriers. Pretoria: Van Schaik.Google Scholar
  2. Badenhorst, C. M., Moloney, C., & Rosales, J. (2016). New literacies for engineering students: critical reflective writing practice. Poster presented at EARLI SIG writing conference, Liverpool Hope University, Liverpool, UK, 4–5 July 2016.Google Scholar
  3. Benton, J., Drage, A., & McShane, P. (2005). Introducing critical thinking. Vancouver: Axial Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bohm, D. (1996). On dialogue. New York/London: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bolton, G. (2010). Reflective practice: Writing and professional development (3rd ed.). London: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  6. Canadian Engineering Leadership Forum. (2009). Leading a canadian future: The new engineer in society. Montreal Declaration, National Engineering Summit, Montreal, QC 21 May 2009. Accessed 15 Jan 2017.
  7. Catalano, G. (2011). Tragedy in the Gulf: A call for a new engineering ethic (Synthesis Lectures on Engineers, Technology and Society). San Rafael: Morgan and Claypool Publishers.Google Scholar
  8. Cech, E. A. (2013). The (mis)framing of social justice: Why ideologies of depoliticization and meritocracy hinder engineers’ ability to think about social justices. In J. Lucena (Ed.), Engineering education for social justice: Critical explorations and opportunities (Philosophy of Engineering and Technology series, pp. 67–84). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  9. Cohen, C. M., & Cohen, S. L. (2012). Lab dynamics: Management and leadership skills for scientists (2nd ed.). Cold Spring Harbor: Cold Spring Harbor Press.Google Scholar
  10. Conklin, J. (2005). Wicked problems and social complexity. CogNexus. Accessed 15 Jan 2017. Also Chapter 1 in Conklin (2005). Dialogue mapping: Building shared understanding of wicked problems. Hoboken: Wiley.
  11. Deo, B., & Strong, D. (2003). Fixing the problem of subjectivity in the concept of ‘activity’ in activity based costing (ABC) – An engineering perspective. In Proceedings of the IIE Annual Conference.Google Scholar
  12. Dusek, V. (2006). Philosophy of technology: An introduction. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar
  13. Engineers Canada. (2016a). Reaching 30 by 30: Promising practices for increasing diversity and inclusion in engineering. Accessed 10 Oct 2016.
  14. Engineers Canada. (2016b). Welcoming workplaces: Diversity in the engineering profession. Accessed 10 Oct 2016.
  15. Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Herder and Herder.Google Scholar
  16. Frezza, S. T., & Nordquest, D. A. (2015). Engineering insight: The philosophy of Bernard Lonergan applied to engineering. In R. Korte, M. Mina, I. Omidvar, S. T. Frezza, D. A. Nordquest, & A. Cheville (Eds.), Philosophical and educational perspectives on engineering and technological literacy, II. Wicklow: American Society of Engineering Education. Accessed 10 Oct 2016.Google Scholar
  17. Fritzsche, A. (2018). Dancing the device: A translational approach to technology. In J.C. Pitt & A. Shew (Eds.), Spaces for the future: A companion to philosophy of technology, pp. 216-223. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  18. Goldberg, D. E., Somerville, M., & Whitney, C. (2014). A whole new engineer: The coming revolution in engineering education. Douglas: Three Joy Associates.Google Scholar
  19. Goldman, S. L. (2004). Why we need a philosophy of engineering: A work in progress. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 29(2), 163–176. Scholar
  20. Grasso, D., & Burkins, M. B. (Eds.). (2010). Holistic engineering education: Beyond technology. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  21. Gunnlaugson, O., & Moore, J. (2009). Dialogue education in the post-secondary classroom: Reflecting on dialogue processes from two higher education settings in North America. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 33(2), 171–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hall, D. E. (2004). Subjectivity. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Keller, E. F. (1985). Reflections on gender and science. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Korte, R. (2015). Pragmatism, practice and engineering. In R. Korte, M. Mina, I. Omidvar, S. T. Frezza, D. A. Nordquest, & A. Cheville (Eds.), Philosophical and educational perspectives on engineering and technological literacy, II. Wicklow: American Society of Engineering Education. Accessed 10 Oct 2016.Google Scholar
  25. Lonergan, B. J. F. (1973). Method in theology (2nd ed.). London: Dartman Longman and Todd.Google Scholar
  26. Lonergan, B. J. F. (1985). A third collection. New York: Paulist Press.Google Scholar
  27. Lonergan, B. J. F. (1992). In Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan, v.3, R. M. Doran & F. E. Crowe (Eds.), Insight: A study of human understanding. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.Google Scholar
  28. Lönngren, J., & Svanström, M. (2016). Systems thinking for dealing with wicked sustainability problems: Beyond functionalist approaches. In W. Leal Filho & E. Nesbit (Eds.), New developments in engineering education for sustainable development (World Sustainability Series, pp. 199–212). Berlin: Springer. Google Scholar
  29. McLean, D. (2003). Workplaces that work: Creating a workplace culture that attracts, retains and promotes women, Canadian federal/provincial/territorial ministers responsible for the status of women.Google Scholar
  30. Merriam, S. B. (2009). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  31. Michelfelder, D. P., & Jones, S. A. (2016). From caring about sustainability to developing care-ful engineers. In W. Leal Filho & E. Nesbit (Eds.), New developments in engineering education for sustainable development (World Sustainability Series, pp. 173–184). Berlin: Springer. Google Scholar
  32. Moloney, C., & Rosales, J. (2011). The MetaKettle project: A journey to the heart of higher education. In Proceedings from 15th international conference of women in engineering and science, Adelaide, Australia, July 19–22. Accessed 10 Oct 2016.
  33. Moloney, C., Rosales, J., Badenhorst, C. & Roberts, J. (2016a). Fostering reflective practice for sustainable professional development: Lead by Design, a pedagogical initiative. In W. Leal Filho & E. Nesbit (Eds.), New developments in engineering education for sustainable development (World Sustainability Series, pp. 199–212). Berlin: Springer. Scholar
  34. Moloney, C., Rosales, J., & Badenhorst, C. (2016b). A methodological evaluation of an integrative pedagogy for engineering education. In Proceedings of IEEE Frontiers in Education (FIE) 2016, Erie, PA, October 12–15, 2016.Google Scholar
  35. Montano, G. (2008). A quantitative analysis of first-year engineering student persistence and interest in civic engagement at a Canadian university. M.Ed. thesis, Memorial University, 2008.Google Scholar
  36. Montgomery, S. L. (1996). The scientific voice. New York: The Guildford Press.Google Scholar
  37. Morelli, M. (2016). Self-possession: Being at home in conscious performance. Los Angeles: Encanto Editions.Google Scholar
  38. National Academy of Engineering (NAE). (2005). Educating the engineer of 2020: Adapting engineering education to the new century. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  39. National Academy of Engineering (NAE). (2008). NAE grand challenges of engineering. Accessed 10 Oct 2016.
  40. Rittel, H. W. J., & Webber, M. M. (1973). Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Policy Sciences, 4(2), 155–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sheppard, S. D., Pellegrino, J. W., & Olds, B. M. (2008). On becoming a 21st century engineer (Guest editor’s forward). Journal of Engineering Education, July, Special Issue on Educating Future Engineers: Who, What, and How, 97(3), 231–234.Google Scholar
  42. Simon, H. A. (1981). The sciences of the artificial (2nd ed.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  43. Smith, L. C. (2010). The world in 2050: Four forces shaping civilization’s northern future. New York: Dutton.Google Scholar
  44. Webb, E. (1988). Philosophers of consciousness. Seattle: University of Washington Press.Google Scholar
  45. Zajonc, A. (2016). Contemplation in education. In K. A. Schonert-Reichl & R. W. Roeser (Eds.), Handbook of mindfulness in education (pp. 17–28). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cecilia Moloney
    • 1
    Email author
  • Cecile Badenhorst
    • 2
  • Janna Rosales
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Engineering and Applied ScienceMemorial University of NewfoundlandSt. John’sCanada
  2. 2.Faculty of EducationMemorial University of NewfoundlandSt. John’sCanada

Personalised recommendations