July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Engineering Leadership Development
A core practice of the engineering profession is working in interdisciplinary teams to create solutions to today’s complex challenges. An important skillset within these teams is leadership, acknowledged by ABET in its most recent requirements. However, many engineering programs leave leadership development to chance, or they focus only on select students. Moreover, there is evidence that these skill-based leadership development programs fail to provide substantial value. Therefore, new approaches must be explored to secure effective leadership development for engineering graduates.
Leadership studies experts have long acknowledged the limitations of traditional skill-based programs. In response, the field is increasingly exploring and acknowledging the effectiveness of identity-based approaches to leadership development, providing a foundation for recent research in engineering leadership identity. Additionally, Human Interaction Labs have demonstrated particularly substantial impact on the interpersonal competencies necessary for relational leadership processes. Hence, these Labs may hold promise as a potential approach for effectively developing interpersonal skills within a leadership context.
This research paper presents a theoretical model of the way engineering leadership identity development is impacted by Human Interaction Labs (Bradford, Gibb, and Benne, 1966). These Labs provide a scaffold for cultivating interpersonal competencies-- which are essential for seeing oneself as an engineering leader—by promoting an authentic, holistic, relational framework. Next, this paper focuses on identity transitions that are widely experienced during college. The first process is self-authorship, where individuals learn to create their own meaning and knowledge (Baxter Magolda, 1998). The second process is belonging, from Lave and Wenger’s (1998) community of practice model. They argue that professional identity develops through belonging to a community of practitioners (in this case, engineering professionals). Engineering identity is further defined in terms of Rottmann, Sacks, and Reeve’s (2015) three dimensions of engineering leadership: Technical Mastery, Collaborative Optimization, and Organizational Innovation. Finally, leadership identity is understood in terms of Komives, Owen, Longerbeam, Mainella, and Osteen’s (2005) Leadership Identity Development model, where students transition from a positional to relational understanding and self-concept of leadership.
The structure of this paper starts with an explanation of Human Interaction Labs. Next, the paper explores identity models and their relevance to engineering education. Once this background has been established, the work focuses on particular ways in which Human Interaction Labs impact leadership identity development for engineering students. This process demonstrates the value and limitations of Human Interaction Labs in engineering leadership development, thereby proposing their role in a comprehensive engineering education program. Initial findings indicate that scaffolding, authentic experiences, and reflection are core elements of how Human Interaction Labs contribute to identity development. Moreover, extant theory suggests that student self-authorship, belonging in the engineering community, and more relational practices of leadership may also develop due to these Labs. (Gibb 1970, Benne 1975) In summary, this research sets the foundation for further qualitative and quantitative exploration of Human Interaction Labs’ impact on engineering leadership identity development.
Tallman, B., & Zorman, W. (2021, July), How Do Human Interaction Labs Contribute to Engineering Leadership Development Growth? Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37255
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