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Board # 70 : Connected Ways of Knowing: Uncovering the Role of Emotion in Engineering Student Learning

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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

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Nadia N. Kellam Arizona State University

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Dr. Nadia Kellam is an Associate Professor in the Polytechnic Engineering Program at Arizona State University. In her research, she is interested in the identity development of engineering students, the role of emotion in student learning, and improving the culture for engineering students and faculty, especially those from underrepresented groups. She has methodological expertise in qualitative research methods with a focus on narrative research methods. She is interested in curricular design and has developed design spines for environmental and mechanical engineering programs, and recently helped design the engineering education systems and design PhD program at ASU. She teaches design courses, engineering science courses, and graduate courses focused on qualitative research methods.

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Audrey Boklage Arizona State University


Brooke Charae Coley Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus

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Brooke Coley, Ph.D. received her doctorate in Bioengineering with a concentration in Biomechanics at the University of Pittsburgh. Following her graduate studies, she became an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science & Technology Policy Fellow at the National Science Foundation (NSF), where she worked in the Engineering Education and Centers (EEC) Division of the Engineering Directorate. She then went on to serve as the Associate Director for the Center for Diversity at the University of Virginia. Currently, Dr. Coley is a Postdoctoral researcher in Engineering Education at The Polytechnic School of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at the Arizona State University.

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Joachim Walther University of Georgia

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Dr. Joachim Walther is an Associate Professor of engineering education research at the University of Georgia and the Founding Director of the Engineering Education Transformations Institute (EETI) in the College of Engineering. The Engineering Education Transformations Institute at UGA is an innovative approach that fuses high quality engineering education research with systematic educational innovation to transform the educational practices and cultures of engineering. Dr. Walther’s research group, the Collaborative Lounge for Understanding Society and Technology through Educational Research (CLUSTER), is a dynamic interdisciplinary team that brings together professors, graduate, and undergraduate students from engineering, art, educational psychology, and social work in the context of fundamental educational research. Dr. Walther’s research program spans interpretive research methodologies in engineering education, the professional formation of engineers, the role of empathy and reflection in engineering learning, and student development in interdisciplinary and interprofessional spaces.

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Joshua M Cruz

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Joshua Cruz is a PhD student studying education at Arizona State University. He is interested in innovating qualitative methods in research, how students transition between high school and college-level coursework, student writing, and student engagement studies. He currently teaches educational foundations courses at Arizona State University's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

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The project described here was a Research on the Formation of Engineering grant that just concluded. The broad purpose of this narrative research project was to explore the role of emotion as a core aspect of connected ways of knowing in engineering student learning and professional formation. The participants in this project were 21 undergraduate engineering students from a diversity of engineering disciplines, number of years in the program, their gender, and their race/ethnicity. The project has resulted in five journal articles—the following are the primary research questions in these studies and some significant results that emerged from each of these research questions: 1. How might we find a reliable way to construct ‘smooth’ stories (with attention to the structures of stories) so that we might compare trajectories of student experiences? Using narratology as a way to do structural analysis allows us to see emergent patterns across student narratives that is independent of the specific context of that student. 2. How do emotions underpin the narratives of engineering students? What emotional trajectory do undergraduate students experience as they progress through an engineering program? During their first year in an engineering program, participants experienced emotional turbulence—a large variability in activation (positive or negative) and valence of emotions within a short period of time. During the second year, the participants became more accepting of their identities as engineers and experienced more positive emotions. During the third year, many participants were engaging in the professional and academic sphere of engineering. In their final year, tensions and negative emotions reappeared as students began to make post-graduation plans. 3. How do student identities develop as they experience an engineering program? The critical incidents of undergraduate engineering students have important implications for identity development. An example of this are stories of faculty and advisors recommending that students take a reduced course load and focus on their studies (giving up extracurricular activities) during their first year. This results in students understanding engineering to be a very hard major and that if one stays in engineering, they must devote all of your effort to being an engineer. 4. What are the experiences and associated emotions of engineering students during their 1st year? Are there differences in these emotions with respect to gender, race, or ethnicity? Students from different groups demonstrated varying emotional responses to similar experiences. The variability and severity of emotions, particularly if sustained over an extended time, can have implications for student persistence in engineering programs and their overall mental health.

In this session we will provide an overview of this research project and focus on key outcomes that emerged from this study. We developed a new (to the larger field of narrative research) way of doing structural narrative analysis, and a deeper understanding of emotions present in engineering student trajectories. Finally, we began to understand the differences of experiences and their associated emotions across different genders, races, and ethnicities.

Kellam, N. N., & Boklage, A., & Coley, B. C., & Walther, J., & Cruz, J. M. (2017, June), Board # 70 : Connected Ways of Knowing: Uncovering the Role of Emotion in Engineering Student Learning Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27909

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