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Artifact Elicitation as a Method of Qualitative Inquiry in Engineering Education

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Qualitative Methodologies

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.235.1 - 26.235.10



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Paper Authors


Elliot P. Douglas University of Florida

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Elliot P. Douglas is Associate Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Dean’s Fellow for Engineering Education, and Distinguished Teaching Scholar at the University of Florida. His research interests are in the areas of active learning pedagogies, problem-solving, critical thinking, diversity in engineering, and qualitative methodologies.

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Shawn S. Jordan Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus Orcid 16x16

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SHAWN JORDAN, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. He teaches context-centered electrical engineering and embedded systems design courses, and studies the use of context in both K-12 and undergraduate engineering design education. He received his Ph.D. in Engineering Education (2010) and M.S./B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Purdue University. Dr. Jordan is PI on several NSF-funded projects related to design, including an NSF Early CAREER Award entitled “CAREER: Engineering Design Across Navajo Culture, Community, and Society” and “Might Young Makers be the Engineers of the Future?” He has also been part of the teaching team for NSF’s Innovation Corps for Learning, and was named one of ASEE PRISM’s “20 Faculty Under 40” in 2014.

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Micah Lande Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus

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Micah Lande, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor at the Polytechnic School in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. He teaches human-centered engineering design and innovation courses in the engineering and manufacturing engineering programs. Dr. Lande researches how technical and non-technical people learn and apply a design process to their work. He is interested in the intersection of designerly epistemic identities and vocational pathways. Dr. Lande received his B.S in Engineering (Product Design), M.A. in Education (Learning, Design and Technology) and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering (Design Thinking) from Stanford University. Dr. Lande is the PI on the NSF-funded project “Should Makers Be the Engineers of the Future” and a co-PI on the NSF-funded project “Might Young Makers Be the Engineers of the Future?”

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Amy Elizabeth Bumbaco University of Florida

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Amy Bumbaco is a PhD candidate in the Materials Science and Engineering Department at University of Florida, USA. She is working on engineering education research as her focus. Her current research interests include first year engineering education, critical thinking, qualitative methodologies, and peer review. She received her BS in Materials Science and Engineering at Virginia Tech. She founded an ASEE student chapter at University of Florida and continues sharing engineering education research with fellow members.

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Artifact Elicitation as a Method of Qualitative Inquiry in Engineering EducationMany qualitative research studies in engineering education use semi-structured interviews as anapproach to inquiry. However, traditional semi-structured interviews do not always enableparticipants to answer questions in deep and meaningful ways. Recent research in engineeringeducation has successfully drawn upon the inquiry method of photo elicitation, which usesphotographs as interview prompts (Harper 2002) to elicit “thick description” (Geertz 1973) fromparticipants. Interviews that rely on photos “evoke information, feelings, and memories that aredue to the photographer’s particular form of representation” and stimulate “latent memory,reducing areas of misunderstanding, eliciting longer and more comprehensive accounts ofideas… eliciting values and beliefs, and connecting to core definitions of the self to society,culture, and history” (Harper 2002). Some studies have extended the methodology of photoelicitation to artifact elicitation, in which research participants are asked questions about artifacts(physical, virtual, etc.) that they have previously created. Artifacts are similar to photos in thatthey embody the knowledge, skills, and attitudes held by the artifact creators. Several studies inparticular have used artifact elicitation to study the ethos of the Maker community (AUTHORS)and evaluate learning through elicitation around course assignments (AUTHORS).In this paper, we will survey current studies in engineering education, science, and math that usephoto or artifact elicitation as a research or pedagogical method. We will critically compare theseapproaches, identifying the advantages and disadvantages of the variants and providing bestpractices for their use in engineering education research.

Douglas, E. P., & Jordan, S. S., & Lande, M., & Bumbaco, A. E. (2015, June), Artifact Elicitation as a Method of Qualitative Inquiry in Engineering Education Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23574

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