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A Review of the Literature Relevant to Engineering Identity

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Engineering Cultures and Identity

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Tagged Topics

Diversity and ASEE Diversity Committee

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Paper Authors


Anita Patrick University of Texas, Austin

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Anita Patrick is a STEM Education doctoral student and Graduate Research Assistant in the Department of Mechanical Engineering and College of Liberal Arts at UT Austin's Population Research Center. She received her BS in Bioengineering from Clemson University where she tutored undergraduate mathematics and science courses, and mentored undergraduate engineering majors. Prior to coming to UT, she independently tutored K12 and undergraduate mathematics and science. Her research interests include engineering education, identity and equity.
Address: Engineering Training Center II (ETC) 204 East Dean Keeton Street Austin, TX 78712 Email:

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Maura Borrego University of Texas, Austin

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Maura Borrego is Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Curriculum & Instruction at the University of Texas at Austin. She previously served as a Program Director at the National Science Foundation and an associate dean and director of interdisciplinary graduate programs. Her research awards include U.S. Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), a National Science Foundation CAREER award, and two outstanding publication awards from the American Educational Research Association for her journal articles. Dr. Borrego is Deputy Editor for Journal of Engineering Education and serves on the board of the American Society for Engineering Education as Chair of Professional Interest Council IV. All of Dr. Borrego’s degrees are in Materials Science and Engineering. Her M.S. and Ph.D. are from Stanford University, and her B.S. is from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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The aim of this review is to summarize the use of identity in theory and practice in the existing literature and make suggestions for areas of future work in engineering education. Identity is complex, multi-faceted and changes over time. Intersectional identities of gender and race also complicate what it means to identify as an engineer. Furthermore, identity development and its relation to academic and career outcomes are important lenses for studying engineering student recruitment and retention, the impact of interventions, and diversity of a competitive STEM workforce. However, the usefulness of engineering identity is dependent on maintaining a clear definition of what the framework is (and is not), distinct from other identity theories. The use of the term “identity” as it relates to this review spans studies in psychology, sociology, education, cultural studies, anthropology, and social linguistics and culminates with more recent research in physics, math and engineering education. Researchers do not always make a clear distinction between “identity” and other more rigorously studied constructs such as self-efficacy. Relating factors that contribute to identity across these different bodies of literature is even more confusing when terms including agency, utility, motivation, beliefs, values, and attitudes are used seemingly interchangeably with engineering identity. Consistency in the language of engineering identity such that the construct can be used consistently and coherently is an apparent need. Despite the existence of validated scales on instruments such as Sustainability and Gender in Engineering (SaGE), engineering identity has not been conceptualized or measured directly to date. Increased attention to the connection between both qualitative and quantitative studies will further strengthen the character of engineering identity work.

Patrick, A., & Borrego, M. (2016, June), A Review of the Literature Relevant to Engineering Identity Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26428

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