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Longitudinal Study Of Australian Engineering Graduates: Perceptions Of Working Time

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

ERM Potpourri

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.857.1 - 13.857.15



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Paper Authors

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James Trevelyan University of Western Australia Orcid 16x16

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Sabbia Tilli University of Western Australia

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Longitudinal Study of Australian Engineering Graduates: Perceptions of Working Time

Abstract A longitudinal study of a single cohort of university engineering graduates is providing detailed information on the early career of Australian engineering graduates at a time of unprecedented demand for engineers. The graduates respond to web-based surveys every 2 or 3 months and a sub-sample provide more detailed information in telephone or face to face interviews. The participation rate was initially 60% and is still at above 40% after 12 months. The study aims to collect information on the work actually performed by the graduates, their perceptions on the amount of time they spend, how they learn the required skills and knowledge, training and professional development that they receive, and perceived gaps in their knowledge. We also aim to understand more about their career trajectories in the early years. Early surveys reveal the types of work performed by graduates in the first year of their career and some information about their early career learning. The paper provides an analysis of data on graduates’ perceptions of the time they spend on different aspects of their work. This reveals that about 60% is spent on interactions with other people either face to face, on the telephone, or through written documents, showing the dominant role of social interactions in engineering practice.

Introduction Unfortunately there are few reliable reports of research on engineering practice1, 2. Very few observations have been reported, for example, on the actual work performed by engineers, technical managers, planners, technologists and technicians. Certain processes in engineering practice such as design and project management have been extensively studied, yet many other aspects such as maintenance have hardly received any attention at all. This is all the more surprising given the extensive debates and written literature on engineering education. An accurate account of engineering practice could help educators explain the relevance of coursework to students, helping to provide appropriate motivation for learning. Such an account may also reveal opportunities to improve curriculum design.

This paper builds on results from an ongoing empirical study to establish a systematic framework to explain engineering practice in the majority of engineering disciplines based on 70 semi- structured interviews, extensive experience and confirmatory field studies3. Both the framework study and the longitudinal study are part of a larger Engineering Learning and Practice Research project involving 4 academics and 15 research students working on detailed, systematic examination of engineering work in several disciplines and industry sectors. The framework study uses qualitative ethnography using semi-structured interviews and some limited field studies2. Typical interviews consist of open-ended questions that explore perceptions of educational experiences, the subject’s career background and daily work. Further questions explore perceptions of commercial issues such as costs and the financial development, teamwork and subordinates, the market for engineering services and products, human resource issues in organizations, information resources and other aspects of engineering work. The participants

Trevelyan, J., & Tilli, S. (2008, June), Longitudinal Study Of Australian Engineering Graduates: Perceptions Of Working Time Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3918

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