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Engaging undergraduate researchers: Contextualizing beliefs and identities about smartness in engineering

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Amy Kramer The Ohio State University

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Dr. Amy Kramer received her Ph.D. in engineering education from The Ohio State University. She has prior academic and professional experience in civil engineering, having worked professionally as a structural engineer. She is currently working as a lecturer in the first-year engineering program at The Ohio State University. Her research interests include engineering epistemology, identity, beliefs, and equity and inclusion in engineering.

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Yiqing Li The Ohio State University

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Bailey Braaten The Ohio State University


Rachel Kajfez The Ohio State University

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Dr. Rachel Louis Kajfez is an Associate 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. She is the principal investigator for the Research on Identity and Motivation in Engineering (RIME) Collaborative.

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Emily Dringenberg The Ohio State University

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Undergraduate research is considered a high-impact practice. It provides students with the opportunity to improve their critical thinking and personal communication skills and offers the opportunity to build mentoring relationships with faculty, increasing the likelihood of graduate school attendance. In our qualitative research project on undergraduate engineering students’ beliefs and identities, we engaged undergraduate engineering student researchers to provide a unique perspective to the project as they are living in the context that they are also researching (i.e., the undergraduate engineering student experience). Thus, we aimed to harness the benefits of engaging undergraduate researchers to not only support their development as students and researchers but also to leverage their personal experiences to help us analyze and interpret our data. Additionally, the undergraduate researchers were able to gain personal insight into their own engineering identity development through engaging in reflective qualitative research practices. While the student researchers were not the participants who provided the data, their engagement with the research team helped us incorporate a student view directly into our work as we made sense of our data, which we believe was beneficial and necessary.

In this executive summary and poster, we report on the summer undergraduate research experience by detailing the undergraduate research associates (URAs) engagement with the data. We also provide a summary of our key takeaways highlighting the benefits to both the URAs themselves and to the added quality of the data analysis because of the insight from the URAs. We end with a series of suggestions for researchers working with URAs based on our experience engaging URAs in qualitative research, specifically when engaging URAs who are living in the same context under investigation. To be clear, in this executive summary we are not reporting on findings from the data analysis of our NSF project but rather on how engaging undergraduate researchers not only helped the URAs develop as students and researchers but also how the URAs helped us develop and contextualize the findings, which we feel added to the validity of our work.

Kramer, A., & Li, Y., & Braaten, B., & Kajfez, R., & Dringenberg, E. (2022, August), Engaging undergraduate researchers: Contextualizing beliefs and identities about smartness in engineering Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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