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Board # 46 : WIP: A Qualitative Analysis of Students' Emerging Understanding of Becoming a Grand Challenge Scholar-Engineer

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Educational Research and Methods Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Amy Trowbridge Arizona State University

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Amy Trowbridge is a Lecturer and Director of the Grand Challenge Scholars Program in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. Her teaching focuses primarily on first year engineering students, and she is interested in curricular and co-curricular experiences that broaden students’ perspectives and enhance learning.

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Tirupalavanam G. Ganesh Arizona State University

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Tirupalavanam G. Ganesh is Assistant Dean of Engineering Education at Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He is Associate Research Professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport, & Energy. He has bachelors and masters degrees in Computer Science and Engineering and a Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction. His research interests include educational research methods, communication of research, and k-16+ engineering education. Ganesh’s research is largely focused on studying the impact of k-12 and undergraduate curricula, and teaching-learning processes in both the formal and informal settings.

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Diana Karen Chen Arizona State University

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Diana is a current undergraduate Computer Science student attending Arizona State University with special interests and focus on advancing education through the advancement and innovation of technology.

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Jorge Luis Roldan

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This work in progress describes the use of qualitative research methods to analyze the impact of a National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenge Scholars Program (GCSP) on student development. Specifically, we are conducting a document analysis to understand how students articulate what it means to become a globally aware engineer who is responsive to the complex nature of problems embodied by the NAE Grand Challenges.

Context: At Arizona State University (ASU), the NAE GCSP is implemented as an effort to prepare tomorrow’s engineering leaders who can collaborate and succeed in a uniquely multidisciplinary and global environment. The GCSP, implemented at over 30 engineering colleges in the U.S., combines an innovative curriculum and cutting-edge research experiences into an intellectual fusion. Students in the GCSP at ASU are admitted into the program as freshmen, and most begin work on the program requirements their first semester. Throughout the program, students develop a portfolio of curated artifacts with accompanying reflections demonstrating the value of the experiences to their development as a Grand Challenge Scholar-Engineer. Students who complete the program achieve the distinction of a Grand Challenge Scholar, endorsed by both ASU and the NAE.

Data Sources and Methods: The primary data source for this study is the portfolios students created to document and describe their experiences in the GCSP. For this pilot study, we selected 9 students’ portfolios for analysis, including 2 from alumni, 6 from graduating seniors, and 1 junior. Semi-structured interviews were also conducted with 3 of the current graduating seniors.

Qualitative research methods were applied to explore how students describe and understand their experiences in the GCSP and how the experiences contribute to their development as engineers. We used the three dimensions of becoming an engineer described by Stevens et al. (disciplinary knowledge, identity, and navigation) as a conceptual framework for this study to make sense of students’ understanding of their GCSP experiences as described in their portfolios. Open and axial coding methods, as described by Strauss and Corbin, were applied to analyze the data. Open coding began with three broad categories drawn from the framework developed by Stevens et al: 1) disciplinary knowledge; 2) identity formation; 3) navigation. At this point in this work in progress, we are continuing with the process of axial coding, working to identify common themes across the dataset.

Initial Results: The data analysis completed thus far has found evidence that students’ experiences in the GCSP allow them to gain additional disciplinary knowledge, and encourage them to explore beyond the typical engineering path to broaden their education and perspectives on engineering. Data also indicates that the GCSP has an impact on their navigation in becoming an engineer, and leads them to experiences that help them to confirm their interests and form identity as engineers. We found that students’ reflections on their experiences typically were limited to describing how GCSP impacted their awareness, enjoyment, and interest in engineering, and/or how it influenced their opinions of the role of engineers in society. In future work, we will use students’ portfolios as artifacts in interviews to learn more about the meanings students hold for the specific actions they take in the GCSP.

Trowbridge, A., & Ganesh, T. G., & Chen, D. K., & Roldan, J. L. (2017, June), Board # 46 : WIP: A Qualitative Analysis of Students' Emerging Understanding of Becoming a Grand Challenge Scholar-Engineer Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27861

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