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“Professional” Acts: Analyzing Sites of Identity and Interactive Response in Chemical Engineering Students

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Engineering Student Experiences

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1411.1 - 24.1411.17



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Paper Authors


Deborah Tihanyi University of Toronto

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Deborah Tihanyi is a Senior Lecturer in the Engineering Communication Program.

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Penny Kinnear University of Toronto

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“Professional” Acts: Analyzing sites of identity and interactive response in chemical engineering studentsProfessionalism has been designated as an outcome by ABET and CEAB. It has become analmost standard part of most rubrics used to evaluate student performance, however, it does notseem to be as salient in curricula and pedagogy. In the specific Engineering Communicationprogram, students were required to put together a portfolio, including reflections on what theportfolio selections showed about the students. Because these portfolios were assembled over a2-year period and included a combination of assigned course work, evidence of interactions anditerations of the reflections it was possible to see a transformation from chemical engineeringstudent to nascent chemical engineer. Using a longitudinal research method we felt it would bepossible to identify specific activities and practices that might contribute to a more principledway of integrating professionalism into curricula and pedagogy.The study, begun in September 2012, follows a cohort of 11 chemical engineering students fromtheir first year as chemical engineering students until one year after graduation. The 11 chemicalengineering students form the core of the participants. Additional participants include the faculty,professors and teaching assistants, involved in selected courses. Courses included in the studywere chosen based on preliminary research (interviews and document analysis) that identifiedcertain courses as pivotal to the transition from student to professional. Data includes individualinterviews, discussion groups, written and oral, individual and team assignments, rubrics,feedback, language logs and participant observation.The study is theoretically grounded in Activity theory because AT allows us to examine therelationships among the various data at both macro and micro levels. Data analysis is proceedingas a continuous review cycle where we identify and define emergent themes and categories. Wehave identified three types of categories in our data thus far. The first are the sites of learning, thesecond the tools and mediational means that facilitate that learning and the third is affect. Forthis paper we have chosen to focus on two of the key sites, Identity and Interactive Response.We define Identity as the affiliations and values either claimed or ascribed to an individual andthe actions or behaviours of the individual in diverse contexts. Interactive Response refers to theresponses (physical, written or oral) to the individuals’ attempts at “professional” acts. Theseresponses may take the form of formative or summative evaluations, assessment and informalresponses from peers, family, friends and “clients”.In this paper, we will present our initial findings on the sites of Identity and InteractiveResponse, which will allow us to showcase early “professional” acts among our participants, theresponses to them, and the ways in which they evolved over the first year of the study period. Wewill also present the potential implications of these findings for application in pedagogy andcurriculum.

Tihanyi, D., & Kinnear, P. (2014, June), “Professional” Acts: Analyzing Sites of Identity and Interactive Response in Chemical Engineering Students Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--19901

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