Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Engineering Leadership Development
Examining the Engineering Leadership Literature: Community of Practice Style
Context & Objectives: Engineering leadership is a collaborative endeavour: New product development teams, entrepreneurial start-ups, and interdisciplinary R&D teams demonstrate the interdependent nature of engineering leadership. Our paper honours this team spirit by examining the process and outcomes of an interdisciplinary reading group. Our objectives for the paper are twofold: to review the literature on engineering leadership transitions, and at a meta-analytic level, to illustrate the benefits of doing this work in collaboration with others.
Conceptual Framework: Our analysis draws on Lave and Wenger’s (1991) situated learning theory. In particular, their notion that learning takes place in a community of practice (CoP) helped us characterize our work as a simultaneous process of learning and professional socialization.
Relevance to LEAD: Our paper is relevant to the LEAD division in two ways: 1) 35 of the 38 articles we reviewed focused on engineering leadership, and 2) the community we built over a three-month period strengthened our professional identities as engineering leadership researchers.
Methodology/Group Process: Our CoP met every other week for three months. It included two engineering leadership professors, three social science researchers, one staff member responsible for industry partnerships, and a fourth year engineering student. Each of our six, two hour meetings included a conceptual mapping exercise, 6-7 guided readings presented by each group member, and a discussion about key concepts, findings and implications. We concluded each meeting by identifying gaps in our emerging literature review and keywords for further examination. Our facilitator synthesized findings between meetings and disseminated them to members for review.
Results: Our literature review on leadership transitions of mid to late career engineers resulted in four interrelated themes and one notable gap. While we found studies on leadership learning in university contexts, we failed to find similar empirical work in industry contexts. The industry- based engineering leadership research focused on career paths and transitions, professional identity development, diversity, and effective leadership characteristics. At a meta-analytic level, our reading group experiment transformed seven group members into an interdisciplinary team of engineering leadership researchers.
Conclusions and Recommendations: As our experience demonstrates, engineering leadership learning is not restricted to university classrooms. It can also be an integral part of research design. Our primary recommendations for engineering leadership researchers can be traced back to our two objectives. First, we need to fill a substantial gap in the literature by empirically examining the leadership learning experiences of mid-career engineers undergoing technical to management transitions. Second, it behoves us as engineering leadership researchers studying a team phenomenon, to frame our work in collaboration with others. Our interdisciplinary CoP resulted in a much more diverse set of readings than any one of us might have sought out on our own. By having an accountability mechanism, biweekly feedback loop, and forum for discussion, our reading group not only provided each of us with a situated learning opportunity, but also added a level of inter-rater reliability to our work. The emerging field of engineering leadership can only benefit from such a collaborative, inter-disciplinary process.
References: Lave, Jean, & Wenger, Etienne. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Rottmann, C., & Reeve, D., & Klassen, M., & Kovalchuk, S., & Liu, Q., & Olechowski, A., & Santia, M. (2018, June), Examining the Engineering Leadership Literature: Community of Practice Style Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30470
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