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Board 9: Engineering Student Perspectives on Research and What It Means to Be a Researcher

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Conference

2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count

7

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/30132

Download Count

72

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Paper Authors

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Lisa Benson Clemson University

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Lisa Benson is a Professor of Engineering and Science Education at Clemson University, with a joint appointment in Bioengineering. Her research focuses on the interactions between student motivation and their learning experiences. Her projects involve the study of student perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards becoming engineers and scientists, and their problem solving processes. Other projects in the Benson group include effects of student-centered active learning, self-regulated learning, and incorporating engineering into secondary science and mathematics classrooms. Her education includes a B.S. in Bioengineering from the University of Vermont, and M.S. and Ph.D. in Bioengineering from Clemson University.

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Courtney June Faber University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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Courtney is a Research Assistant Professor and Lecturer in the Cook Grand Challenge Engineering Honors Program at the University of Tennessee. She completed her Ph.D. in Engineering & Science Education at Clemson University. Prior to her Ph.D. work, she received her B.S. in Bioengineering at Clemson University and her M.S. in Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University. Courtney’s research interests include epistemic cognition in the context of problem solving, and researcher identity.

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Rachel Louis Kajfez Ohio State University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-9745-1921

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Dr. Rachel Louis Kajfez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at The Ohio State University. She earned her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Civil Engineering from Ohio State and earned her Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech. Her research interests focus on the intersection between motivation and identity of undergraduate and graduate students, first-year engineering programs, mixed methods research, and innovative approaches to teaching.

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Marian S. Kennedy Clemson University

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Marian Kennedy is an Associate Professor within the Department of Materials Science & Engineering at Clemson University. Her research group focused on the mechanical and tribological characterization of thin films. She also contributes to the engineering education community through research related to undergraduate research programs and navigational capital needed for graduate school.

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Katherine M. Ehlert Clemson University

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Katherine M. Ehlert is a doctoral student in the Engineering and Science Education department in the College of Engineering, Computing, and Applied Sciences at Clemson University. She earned her BS in Mechanical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University and her MS in Mechanical Engineering focusing on Biomechanics from Cornell University. Prior to her enrollment at Clemson, Katherine worked as a Biomedical Engineering consultant in Philadelphia, PA. Her research interests include identity development through research experiences for engineering students, student pathways to engineering degree completion, and documenting the influence of co-op experiences on academic performance.

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Dennis M. Lee Clemson University

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Dennis M. Lee is a doctoral student in the Engineering and Science Education Department and Graduate Research Assistant in the office of the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the College of Engineering, Computing, and Applied Sciences at Clemson University. He received his BA and MS in bacteriology from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Prior to his studies at Clemson University, he taught introductory biology at Tri-County Technical College in Pendleton, SC. His research interests include the development of researcher identity and epistemic cognition in undergraduate STEM students.

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Anne Marguerite McAlister Ohio State University

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Anne is an undergraduate student at The Ohio State University studying chemical engineering.

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Teresa Porter Ohio State University

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Abstract

Undergraduate research experiences (UREs) have shown positive effects on students’ understanding of the nature of science, motivation, and academic performance. However, little is understood about how UREs affect students’ views of research and being researchers. The value of students’ identities as researchers lies in the alignment of their research skills with important aspects of their epistemic beliefs, or ways of knowing fundamental concepts in engineering and how to practice engineering. Our overarching research question is: How do undergraduate engineering students develop their identities as researchers and their ways of knowing engineering through research experiences? The outcomes of understanding how undergraduates develop researcher identities and engineering epistemic beliefs will inform the development of engineering education experiences to provide meaningful ways for students to engage, function and learn in both traditional and research-based learning environments. This multi-institution, multi-phase project includes open-ended surveys (Phase I), semi-structured interviews (Phase II), and translation of research findings to practice (Phase III). We are employing a mixed-methods, grounded theory approach to expand existing identity and epistemic belief theories. In Phase I, we developed and deployed a survey with close-ended and open-ended questions to characterize students’ researcher identities, perceptions of research, epistemic beliefs, and beliefs about being researchers themselves. Analysis of responses to open-ended questions (n=113) revealed themes related to student perceptions of research: it involves actively seeking new knowledge and performing investigations or experimentation. Students identified as being researchers through recognition by others, and by contributing to society. They also cited communication of research as part of being a researcher.

Survey results informed the protocol for semi-structured interviews (n=9 to date) to explore relationships between students’ epistemic cognition and identity in the context of research. Within the interviews, specific survey questions were used to facilitate discussions about how the participants see themselves as researchers. The use of these questions in the interview has led to valuable insight about measuring aspects of identity and epistemic cognition on quantitative scales. Interview transcripts were analyzed using theory-level coding to identify aspects of the underlying theories of identity and epistemic cognition. This was followed by more specific, emergent coding for aspects of the students’ beliefs, attitudes and practices. Two coders reflected on each coded passage using structured memos to justify and explain the codes applied, and make comparisons across participants. These structured memos are being used by our research team to support the integration of our quantitative and qualitative data, the move from description analysis to the construction of theoretical categories, and comparison across participants.

Outcomes for this project to date include 1) an evidence-based interview protocol, 2) details about structured memoing that can support work within grounded theory and mixed-methods analyses, and 3) value in using quantitative survey items in a semi-structured interview. These research tools can facilitate combining complex theoretical frameworks within qualitative and mixed-methods research.

Benson, L., & Faber, C. J., & Kajfez, R. L., & Kennedy, M. S., & Ehlert, K. M., & Lee, D. M., & McAlister, A. M., & Porter, T. (2018, June), Board 9: Engineering Student Perspectives on Research and What It Means to Be a Researcher Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30132

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