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Board 45: Work in Progress: Epistemologies and Discourse Analysis for Transdisciplinary Capstone Projects in a Digital Media Program

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Educational Research and Methods Division Poster Session

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Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Joshua M. Cruz Texas Tech University

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Joshua Cruz is an assistant professor of education at Texas Tech University. His specializations include qualitative methods (with focus on qualitative innovations and embodiment/movement studies), post-secondary transitions, and academic writing. Mixing his research with his hobbies, he currently leads several after-school martial arts programs in the Lubbock area. Prior to his appointment in Texas, he was a doctoral student at Arizona State University, studying student engagement and post-structural philosophy in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

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Noa Bruhis Arizona State University

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Noa Bruhis is a doctoral student in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at Arizona State University. She earned a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from UC Davis, and received her M.S. in Water Resources Engineering from Oregon State University. She spent several years in industry, developing research-grade environmental sensors, and has returned to school for a Ph.D. in the Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology Program at ASU.

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Nadia N. Kellam Arizona State University

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Nadia Kellam is Associate Professor in the Polytechnic School of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University (ASU). She is a qualitative researcher who primarily uses narrative research methods and is interested more broadly in interpretive research methods. In her research, Dr. Kellam is broadly interested in developing critical understandings of the culture of engineering education and, especially, the experiences of underrepresented undergraduate engineering students and engineering educators. In addition to teaching undergraduate engineering courses and a graduate course on entrepreneurship, she also enjoys teaching qualitative research methods in engineering education in the Engineering Education Systems and Design PhD program at ASU. She is deputy editor of the Journal of Engineering Education.

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Suren Jayasuriya Arizona State University

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Suren Jayasuriya is an assistant professor jointly between the School of Arts, Media and Engineering (AME) and the School of Electrical, Computer, and Energy Engineering (ECEE) at Arizona State University. Prior to this, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University from 2016 - 2017. He received his Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Cornell University in 2017, and a B.S. in Mathematics and a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh in 2012. His research interests are in computational imaging and photography, computer vision and graphics, sensors, and engineering education.

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This work in progress explores the epistemologies and discourse used by undergraduate students at the transdisciplinary intersection of engineering at the arts. Our research questions are focused on the kinds of knowledge that students value, use, and identify within the context of an interdisciplinary digital media program, and exploring how their language reflects this. Our theoretical framework for analyzing epistemology draws upon qualitative work in STEM epistemology (Faber & Benson, 2017; Lising & Elby, 2005; Monfort, Brown, & Shinew, 2014), domain specificity (Buehl, Alexander, & Murphy, 2002; Palmer & Marra, 2008), and epistemological camps (Yu and Strobel, 2011; 2012). Further, to analyze the language used by participants (as well as the interviewers themselves), we employ the use of discourse analysis as the study of language-in-use (Gee 2010) to explore the intersection of personal epistemology and identity as well as epistemological tensions in the context of this digital media program.

Six interviews were conducted with students pursuing a semester-long senior capstone project in a digital media undergraduate degree program that emphasizes the intersection between arts, media, and engineering. Student demographics included 5 female and 1 male participant, race/ethnicities include white (2), Hispanic or Latino (2), Native American (1), and multiracial (1). The interviews were semi-structured, and questions centered around students' experiences pursuing a capstone project and how they utilized/identified with both artistic and engineering knowledge in the context of these projects.

Preliminary findings show that students showcase a variety of epistemologies including positivism, constructivism, and pragmatism while engaged in their studies. This gives rise to the idea of "border epistemologies" as a way to think and/or construct knowledge that may receive different value from discipline to discipline. Further, discourse analysis highlighted students' identifications with being either an artist or engineer, and revealed issues around the intersectionality of identity, and gender diversity that serves as a sub-context underlying the use of knowledge in these situations. Discourse analysis additionally showed that students sometimes struggle to reconcile the kind of knowledge and problem-solving approaches valued in artistic disciplines with those valued in engineering disciplines. Future research aims to synergistically combine these two strands of epistemological and discourse analysis as well as compare this group of students with different students pursuing more traditional engineering capstone projects, to understand more deeply knowledge generation and utilization in these transdisciplinary arts and engineering programs.

Cruz, J. M., & Bruhis, N., & Kellam, N. N., & Jayasuriya, S. (2019, June), Board 45: Work in Progress: Epistemologies and Discourse Analysis for Transdisciplinary Capstone Projects in a Digital Media Program Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32353

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