Asee peer logo

In Search of Meaning and Identity: An Autoethnography of a Graduate Student Navigating the Field of Engineering Education

Download Paper |


2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Graduate Student Experience

Tagged Divisions

Graduate Studies and Student

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.756.1 - 25.756.8



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Richard J. Aleong Queen's University

visit author page

Richard Aleong is a master's of applied science candidate in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. His research interests are in engineering design, qualitative research methodology, and teaching and learning in higher education.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Enhancing Design Thinking through Reflective Practice: An Autoethnography of a Graduate Student Navigating the Field of Engineering EducationFor many students pursuing undergraduate and post-graduate studies, their curriculum involvesfollowing traditional paths set by academia to meet the requirements of their program. Whileacademic institutions offer rich learning environments filled with opportunities, it is important torecognize that the true value in one’s degree comes from the value that one creates in his or herexperience at school—whatever that value may be. In other words, the old adage applies: “youonly get what you put in.” Although undergraduate and post-graduate students may be wellpositioned based on the institution’s curriculum, students should be critical of their educationunder the guidance of the school. If students wish to truly embrace the espoused values ofacademic institutions and develop into self-directed lifelong learners, students should seek toextend their learning beyond the institution’s curriculum. However, the necessary will and skillfor this transformation may not always be explicit. To support undergraduate and graduatestudents in becoming self-directed lifelong learners, it may be worthwhile for institutions toteach the requisite skills and attitudes explicitly—that could serve as a framework on which tobuild other learning. This paper serves two objectives to help undergraduate and post-graduatestudents develop as lifelong learners and future engineers: 1) to share my experience as agraduate student studying in the interdisciplinary field of engineering education and 2) to showhow learning about education has enhanced my competencies as an engineer.In the educational setting, a holistic curriculum strives to balance the elements of subject matter,society, and the individual. In this paper, I adopt a broad definition of curriculum that considersall experiences undertaken by a student in pursuit of a learning objective. With an understandingof curriculum development, students can effectively design their own curriculum to meet theirindividual learning objectives. Although my institution does not currently have a formalengineering education research program, I have strived to build a personal curriculum tooptimize my learning experience. This paper will present my growth as a student navigating thefield of engineering education. Through an autoethnographic study using my personal narrativesand reflective journal notes as my sources of information, I will analyze and make explicit mytacit learning in developing my engineering education curriculum. Through my reflectivepractice, I will show how learning about education itself has supported my own learning andcompetence as an engineer.There is a great deal of pride in achieving an undergraduate and post-graduate degree. Thispaper offers insight from a graduate student perspective to help students make the most of theirlearning experiences.

Aleong, R. J. (2012, June), In Search of Meaning and Identity: An Autoethnography of a Graduate Student Navigating the Field of Engineering Education Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21513

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2012 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015