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Learning Strategies and Learning Traits Critical to Practicing Engineers after College

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Preparing for Practice

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.857.1 - 23.857.46



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Paper Authors


Daniel M. Ferguson Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Daniel M. Ferguson is a graduate student in the Engineering Education Program at Purdue University and the recipient of NSF awards for research in engineering education. Prior to coming to Purdue he was Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship at Ohio Northern University. Before assuming that position he was Associate Director of the Inter-professional Studies Program and Senior Lecturer at Illinois Institute of Technology and involved in research in service learning, assessment processes and interventions aimed at improving learning objective attainment. Prior to his University assignments he was the Founder and CEO of The EDI Group, Ltd. and The EDI Group Canada, Ltd, independent professional services companies specializing in B2B electronic commerce and electronic data interchange. The EDI Group companies conducted syndicated market research, offered educational seminars and conferences and published The Journal of Electronic Commerce. He was also a Vice President at the First National Bank of Chicago, where he founded and managed the bank’s market leading professional Cash Management Consulting Group, initiated the bank’s non credit service product management organization and profit center profitability programs and was instrumental in the breakthrough EDI/EFT payment system implemented by General Motors. Mr. Ferguson is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and Stanford University.

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James Edwin Cawthorne Jr. Purdue University, West Lafayette


Corey T Schimpf Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Corey Schimpf is a PhD student in Engineering Education. His research interests include examining how cyberlearning and informal learning environments can be brought into the engineering curriculum. His dissertation explores how a gaming platform can be used to facilitate early college engineering students design skills development.

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Monica E Cardella Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Monica Cardella is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She is also the Director of Informal Learning Environments Research for the Institute for P-12 Engineering Learning and Research (INSPIRE). She conducts research on undergraduate engineering students' design and mathematical thinking in formal and informal contexts in addition to research on how children develop engineering thinking in informal learning environments.

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Learning Strategies and Learning Traits Critical to Practicing Engineers after CollegeLifelong learning is not only a mantra of the National Academy of Engineering but also a keyaspect of the lives of practicing engineers. A series of exploratory interviews on engineeringlearning were conducted with IRB approval in 2011 and 2012 with successful practicingengineers who have 20 or more years of engineering experience. Interview data was collectedfrom a convenience sample of successful practicing engineers who are all graduates of a largeMidwestern engineering college and working for very large manufacturing or consultingcompanies. The exploratory research goal was to better understand how practicing engineerscontinue to learn after their “formal” schooling comes to a close.Our phenomenological analysis corroborates that informal learning on the job is the most criticalaspect of engineering learning. Further our analysis suggests that engineering learning ofpracticing engineers is primarily self-driven and collaborative. Learning experiences related tobeing mentored or mentoring others are additional factors which have strong influence in thelearning of practicing engineers. Successful practicing engineers continually build theirknowledge and skill throughout their careers and are inquisitive and passionate people regardingtheir work and discipline. Successful practicing engineers are also thirsty for new knowledge, gooutside their contexts to learn about new models, products and processes, volunteer for tasksother engineers avoid and actively seek and seek mentors to help them advance and learn. Learning can and does happen across many contexts and throughout individuals' lives. Inindustry our findings suggest that successful practicing engineers not only continue to developtheir technical skills they also develop or expand upon their human and organization skills.A key learning and organizational skill is the use of mentors and becoming a mentor to others.Some organizations formalize this mentoring process while others leave mentoring up toindividual initiatives. In particular mentors impact the value of the advice or direction theyprovide to their mentees by the nature of their mentoring; is it active or passive mentoring?,mentoring on technical or professional information or both?Our paper will identify the most critical learning strategies of successful practicing engineers andthe learning traits most supportive of the continuous learning that successful practicing engineersexhibit. The learning strategies deemed most important by our participants and the learning traitsmost likely to have contributed to their success in their careers as practicing engineers will beidentified. These findings have implications for both engineering curriculum and engineeringmanagement practices.

Ferguson, D. M., & Cawthorne, J. E., & Schimpf, C. T., & Cardella, M. E. (2013, June), Learning Strategies and Learning Traits Critical to Practicing Engineers after College Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19871

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