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Novice-led paired thematic analysis: A method for conceptual change in engineering

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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

Educational Research and Methods (ERM) Poster Session

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.933.1 - 23.933.9



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Paper Authors

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Devlin B. Montfort Washington State University


Geoffrey L Herman University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Orcid 16x16

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Professor Geoffrey L Herman is a Visiting Assistant Professor with the Illinois Foundry for Innovation in Engineering Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He earned his Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois and conducted post-doctoral research in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He now serves as the Intrinsic Motivation Course Conversion project lead with the iFoundry and on the steering committee of the College of Engineering's Strategic Instructional Initiatives Program.

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Shane A. Brown P.E. Washington State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Shane Brown conducts research on cognition and conceptual change in engineering. He received his bachelor’s and Ph.D. degrees from Oregon State University, both in civil engineering. His Ph.D. degree includes a minor in science and mathematics education. His master’s degree is in environmental engineering from the University of California, Davis. Dr. Brown is a licensed professional civil engineer and has six years of experience designing water and wastewater treatment facilities in central California. He was the recipient of the NSF CAREER award in 2011. Dr. Brown’s research interests are in conceptual change, epistemology, and social or situated cognition. Specifically, his research focuses on theoretical approaches to understanding why some engineering concepts are harder to learn than others, including the role of language and context in the learning process.

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Holly M Matusovich Virginia Tech


Ruth A. Streveler Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Ruth A. Streveler is an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Dr. Streveler has been the Principle Investigator or co-Principle Investigator of ten grants funded by the US National Science Foundation. She has published articles in the Journal of Engineering Education and the International Journal of Engineering Education and has contributed to the Cambridge Handbook of Engineering Education Research. She has presented workshops to over 500 engineering faculty on four continents. Dr. Streveler’s primary research interests are investigating students’ understanding of difficult concepts in engineering science and helping engineering faculty conduct rigorous research in engineering education.

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Novice-led paired thematic analysis: A method for conceptual change in engineeringConceptual change research is a major focus of STEM education researchers and fundingagencies. The dominant research methods have evolved over nearly 50 years and rely heavily oninterviews and thematic analysis of student statements. The purpose of this paper is to introducea new analysis technique. This analysis technique developed pragmatically over the course of ayear of collaborative analysis between two post-doctoral researchers. The project focused oninvestigating sets of student interviews in order to begin to develop a theory of conceptualchange in engineering.Novice-led paired thematic analysis is built on a dyadic interaction between researchers whereone researcher is significantly more familiar with and knowledgeable about the content area ofthe interviews. In these particular cases, the novice had usually had one pertinent undergraduatecourse within the last ten years without any follow-up engagement with the material. Themethod involves an iterative movement between three stages: 1) Instruction, 2) Parallel Coding,3) Discussion. These three stages periodically culminated in a fourth stage in which sustaineddisagreements from the Discussion stage are challenged and compared in terms of additionalresearch on the subject area (if necessary) and additional analysis.There is likely an ideal level of “novice,” or at least some practical range outside of which thebeneficial practices are overwhelmed by either too little or too much instruction. A key featureis the lack of shared assumptions; a novice who is familiar enough with the content to be able toimmediately discern the meaning and intent of the interview practices will not be able tointerrogate the data from a new perspective. Comparisons between the novice’s learningprocesses and the understanding of the student identify areas where purely expert analysis wouldunfairly devalue student reasoning, or conversely, where experts would inappropriately moresophisticated reasoning that students actually offered.

Montfort, D. B., & Herman, G. L., & Brown, S. A., & Matusovich, H. M., & Streveler, R. A. (2013, June), Novice-led paired thematic analysis: A method for conceptual change in engineering Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22318

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