June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Educational Research and Methods
26.880.1 - 26.880.17
Learning and Identity at the Nexus of Practice: Mediated Discourse Analysis as a Methodology for Engineering Education Research IntroductionThe objective of this paper, following recent efforts in engineering education scholarshipto advance the methodological breadth and depth of the field (Case & Light, 2011), is tointroduce the methodology of Mediated Discourse Analysis (MDA) into engineeringeducation research. We will outline the conceptual and methodological approach ofMDA, and illustrate the approach with analysis of data from a comparative study ofundergraduate and professional engineering design.Conceptual FrameworkMediated Discourse Analysis is rooted in neo-Vygotskian and critical situative theoriesof learning (Johri, Olds, & O’Connor, 2014), and particularly in Mediated Action (MA)theory (Wertsch, 1998; Wertsch & O’Connor, 1994). Mediated Action theory exploreshow mind is realized in and through action, and how this process is mediated by semioticand material “cultural tools.” This approach takes action, as opposed to eitherindividuals or sociocultural environments, as the fundamental unit of analysis forstudying learning. MDA builds directly on the MA framework, adding specific emphases,first, on the role of discourse as a form of action through which mind, identity, and socialcollectives are realized; and, second, on an ethnographic understanding of the “sites ofengagement” in which action takes place, including the range of semiotic and materialtools that intersect in action. Both frameworks adopt a focus on the “nexus of practice”at which these intersect and are brought concretely into engagement (Scollon,2001). This focus keeps alive the complexity of meanings and practices that bindcommunities together and make up individuals’ identities over time. MDA aims atdeepening our understanding of how sociocultural processes shape and mold people’slives and identities, and is interested in better understanding how discourses, practices,and mediations can constitute opportunities for actions, but also contribute to limitingopportunities for actions.Empirical IllustrationWe illustrate the MDA framework through an analysis of learning and identity in a firstyear engineering projects course. Such courses are often identified as key sites forrecruitment and retention, in that they are taken to build identification by students withthe discipline and profession of engineering at a time prior to the start of engineeringmajor coursework. Our analysis uses MDA to show how processes of identificationhappen, by examining the microdynamics of discourse among participants in the courseagainst the background of ethnographic work in this setting as well as in professionalengineering settings. A specific focus is on how participants bring practices from theirlives outside of engineering into their action within the engineering projects course, howthese outside practices are either endorsed or censured by other participants (both facultyand other students), and the consequences of these for students’ participation in thecourse.ReferencesCase, J., & Light, G. (2011). Emerging methodologies in engineering education research. Journal of Engineering Education, 100 (1), 186–210. Johri, A., Olds, B.M., and O’Connor, K. (2014). Situative frameworks for engineering learning research. In B. Olds and A. Johri (Eds.), Cambridge Handbook of Engineering Education Research. New York: Cambridge University Press.Scollon, R. (2001). Mediated Discourse: The Nexus of Practice, London: Routledge.Wertsch, J.V. (1998). Mind as action. New York: Oxford.Wertsch, J.V. & O’Connor, K. (1994). Multivoicedness in historical representation: American college students' accounts of the origins of the U.S. Journal of Narrative and Life History, 4, 295-309.
O'Connor, K., & Peck, F. A., & Cafarella, J., & Lauff, C. A., & Kotys-Schwartz, D. A., & Rentschler, M., & McWilliams, J. (2015, June), Ideologies of Depoliticization in Engineering Education: A Mediated Discourse Analysis of Student Presentations in a First-year Projects Course Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24217
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