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Building Capacity and Social Capital around Interpretive Research Quality

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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

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.303.1 - 26.303.6



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Paper Authors


Joachim Walther University of Georgia

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Dr. Walther is an assistant professor of engineering education research at the University of Georgia (UGA). He is the director of the Collaborative Lounge for Understanding Society and Technology through Educational Research (CLUSTER), an interdisciplinary research group with members from engineering, art, educational psychology, and social work.

His research interests range from the role of empathy in engineering students' professional formation, the role of reflection in engineering learning, and interpretive research methodologies in the emerging field of engineering education research.

His teaching focuses on innovative approaches to introducing systems thinking and creativity into the environmental engineering program at the University of Georgia.

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Nicola Sochacka University of Georgia

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Dr. Nicki Sochacka received her doctorate in Engineering Epistemologies from the University of Queensland, Australia, in 2011. She is currently a member of the CLUSTER research group at the University of Georgia where she holds a research and teaching position. Nicki’s areas of research interest include: STEAM (STEM + Art) education, diversity, interpretive research quality, the role of empathy in engineering education and practice, and student reflection.

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Ethical validation as a key outcome of a practice-based collaborative process to build capacity and social capital around interpretive research qualitySet in the context of an NSF-funded CAREER project, this paper describes a collaborative effortin the engineering education research community to build social capital and capacity aroundquestions of research quality. To date, this effort has entailed: i) two one and a half day‘longitudinal’ interactive workshops with leading qualitative researchers in the field ofengineering education and their graduate students (2013, n = 9 faculty, n = 8 graduate students;2014, n = 8 faculty, n = 10 graduate students), and ii) three broader participation workshops atnational and international engineering education conferences (AAEE 2012, n = 16; ASEE 2013,n = 112; FIE 2014, n = 13). This paper describes the model of the ongoing collaborativeengagement process, summarizes findings and insights concerning research quality, andelaborates on the development of the notion of ethical validation as one example outcome fromthe practice-based collaborative endeavor.At the outset of the project, the purpose was to build on an initial theoretical understanding ofresearch quality with the view to developing a quality framework that reflects the practices ofengineering education researchers. After the first longitudinal workshop, however, it becameclear that the two dimensions of the initial proposal: a) the process model, and b) the fourvalidation constructs and Process Reliability, resonated with the participants and helped them tosituate and work with quality challenges in the context of their own projects.Building on the momentum from the first longitudinal workshop, it was decided to pursue a‘multiple voices’ paper, which six out of the nine faculty participants at the workshop committedto contributing to. This process, which is still ongoing, has led to a deeper and more nuancedunderstanding of the initial proposed quality framework, with a particular focus on interactionsbetween the different aspects of validation and Process Reliability, as well as a betterunderstanding of possible misconceptions of the categories. It is also in the context of workingon this collaborative effort that a “question-based” format of the quality framework wasdeveloped to inform quality planning activities.As one of the key outcomes of the project, this paper introduces the notion of Ethical Validationto complement the existing framework of validation constructs and process reliability. Wetheoretically frame Ethical Validation as a coherent effort that spans the entire research processthus expanding existing considerations of participant protection and confidentiality. Based on ananalysis of practice anecdotes from projects of the authors of the paper, we propose ethicalvalidation as an integrating and contextualizing element of the quality framework that situatestheoretical consideration of quality in the lived experiences of the shared meaning makingbetween participants and researchers.

Walther, J., & Sochacka, N. (2015, June), Building Capacity and Social Capital around Interpretive Research Quality Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23642

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