Purdue University Graduate School

Understanding Culturally Relevant Engineering Education in Multiple Settings: A Case Study of Nigeria

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posted on 2023-08-07, 13:24 authored by Moses OlayemiMoses Olayemi

This dissertation is premised on using an asset-based framework to investigate how engineering educators provide culturally relevant engineering education to Nigerian students at the undergraduate level. Its research questions are as follows: How do engineering educators provide culturally relevant teaching to Nigerian students? What can we learn about culturally relevant teaching in engineering education from a comparative study of institutions and educators in the Nigerian context? What are the affordances, challenges, and recommendations? This dissertation leverages the socio-psychological teacher conceptions of “knowledge,” “social relations,” and the “self” and “others” described by Gloria Ladson Billings’ culturally relevant pedagogy (CRP) framework. Schools located in all six of Nigeria’s geopolitical zones and participants fluent in her three major spoken languages are represented in the study. The analyzed data for this study include surveys, in-person and virtual classroom observations, teacher reflection journals, classroom artifacts, school policy documents, and semi-structured interviews with 37 engineering faculty members, 2 provosts, 5 engineering college deans, and 2 students. The findings reveal a strong penchant for analogies and proverbs as analogical bridges that engineering instructors in this context used when traditional experiments, classroom demonstrations, or available educational resources failed. Nuances of culturally-relevant teacher conceptions include: using proverbs to build cognitive reasoning in Nigerian engineering classrooms; visual and auditory cues as a type of formative feedback; analogies as a pedagogical form; advocating for active and authentic learning through tutorials; leveraging the communal nature of the culture in the classroom; colonial antecedents responsible for certain school policies; manifestations of Ladson-Billings’ conceptions in this context; and peculiarities of the three CRP criteria in this context. The dissertation concludes with implications of the study for culturally relevant engineering education and useful recommendations for instructors looking for culturally relevant ways of supporting students of Nigerian origins in their engineering classrooms.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Engineering Education

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Jennifer DeBoer

Additional Committee Member 2

Tamara Moore

Additional Committee Member 3

Karl Smith

Additional Committee Member 4

Jennifer Case

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