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Mindful Methodology: A transparent dialogue on Adapting Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis for Engineering Education Research

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Conference

2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Qualitative Research Methods

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count

16

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/28669

Download Count

319

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Paper Authors

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Adam Kirn University of Nevada, Reno

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Adam Kirn is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at University of Nevada, Reno. His research focuses on the interactions between engineering cultures, student motivation, and their learning experiences. His projects involve the study of student perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards becoming engineers, their problem solving processes, and cultural fit. His education includes a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a M.S. in Bioengineering and Ph.D. in Engineering and Science Education from Clemson University.

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Allison Godwin Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering) Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-0741-3356

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Allison Godwin, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her research focuses what factors influence diverse students to choose engineering and stay in engineering through their careers and how different experiences within the practice and culture of engineering foster or hinder belongingness and identity development. Dr. Godwin graduated from Clemson University with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering and Ph.D. in Engineering and Science Education. She is the recipient of a 2014 American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Educational Research and Methods Division Apprentice Faculty Grant. She has also been recognized for the synergy of research and teaching as an invited participant of the 2016 National Academy of Engineering Frontiers of Engineering Education Symposium and 2016 New Faculty Fellow for the Frontiers in Engineering Education Annual Conference. She also was an NSF Graduate Research Fellow for her work on female empowerment in engineering which won the National Association for Research in Science Teaching 2015 Outstanding Doctoral Research Award.

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Cheryl Cass North Carolina State University

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Cheryl Cass is a teaching assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at North Carolina State University where she has served as the Director of Undergraduate Programs since 2011. Her research focuses on the intersection of science and engineering identity in post-secondary and graduate level programs.

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Monique S. Ross Florida International University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-6320-636X

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Monique Ross holds a doctoral degree in Engineering Education from Purdue University. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from Elizabethtown College, a Master’s degree in Computer Science and Software Engineering from Auburn University, eleven years of experience in industry as a software engineer, and three years as a full-time faculty in the departments of computer science and engineering. Her interests focus on broadening participation in engineering through the exploration of: 1) race, gender, and identity in the engineering workplace; 2) discipline-based education research (with a focus on computer science and computer engineering courses) in order to inform pedagogical practices that garner interest and retain women and minorities in computer-related engineering fields. 

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James L. Huff Harding University

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James Huff is an assistant professor of engineering at Harding University, where he primarily teaches multidisciplinary engineering design and electrical engineering. His research interests are aligned with how engineering students develop in their career identity while also developing as whole persons. James received his Ph.D. in engineering education and his his M.S. in electrical and computer engineering, both from Purdue University. He received his bachelor's in computer engineering at Harding University.

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Abstract

This research paper investigates the use of interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) in two studies that contribute to engineering education research (EER). We critically examine adaptations made to IPA to address cultural considerations and research focuses of EER. The authors provide varying perspectives in relation to their experiences using IPA. In this paper, we capture an open dialogue that describes adaptations made to IPA and critically question these adaptations.

IPA is a qualitative methodology used to examine subjective lived experiences of individuals. Experiences can be tangible first-order experiences (e.g., initial enrollment in college) or second-order attitudinal experiences (e.g., motivations for solving problems). IPA acknowledges the role of the researcher in interpreting students’ descriptions and co-constructing findings. IPA’s philosophical foundation focuses on participants’ idiosyncratic experiences, interpretation of lived experiences, and ways of describing experiences. We present two studies that have made pragmatic adaptations to IPA paired with a critical conversation of these methodological changes.

The first study explored engineering doctoral students’ motivations and identities that were influenced by experiences in their degree programs. Focus groups and interviews were utilized for data collection to prioritize participant availability, which deviates from IPA traditions. While IPA has a history of using interviews or focus groups as primary data sources, utilizing mixed data sources is not present in current literature. Use of multiple data sources required researchers to shift their interpretive stances to consider the significance of additional voices at the time of participant sensemaking and how this differs from lone participants. While analyzing this mixed data provided unique insights, the research team also had an increased burden to account for how dissimilar data sources inherently focused on synergistic yet distinct social realities.

The second study focused on students perceptions of diversity after working in diverse teams, with engineering teams as the unit of analysis. Data for this study came from observations of teams, two individual interviews, pre- and post-intervention survey data, team member rating, and a measure of students’ unconscious bias. In analyzing these data, priority was given to students’ stories and perceptions elicited through interviews. Interviews were analyzed by a team of researchers rather than an individual. This approach required the negotiation of distinct viewpoints in analysis and the merging of individual’s approaches to coding participants’ lived experiences as well as documenting each researcher’s positionality within the work. IPA typically introduces personal reflection during the analysis phase that draws on the researcher’s experiential knowledge. Reconciling across a research team’s experiential knowledge is a non-trivial task. Additionally, reconciliation may increase the risk of diluting participant experiences. Vigilance to return to the participant’s words is necessary to preserve their meaning-making of the experiences.

As IPA gains popularity in EER, it is important to consider how we adapt methodology to fit engineering education and how we gain new insight by utilizing different methodologies. By critically engaging the topic of methodology in EER, this paper intends to sharpen our community’s command of IPA and deepen our collective insight into engineering education.

Kirn, A., & Godwin, A., & Cass, C., & Ross, M. S., & Huff, J. L. (2017, June), Mindful Methodology: A transparent dialogue on Adapting Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis for Engineering Education Research Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28669

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