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Sponsorship: Engineering’s Tacit Gatekeeper

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Conference

2007 Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007

ISSN

2153-5965

Conference Session

ERM Potpourri II

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count

14

Page Numbers

12.1295.1 - 12.1295.14

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/2641

Download Count

55

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Paper Authors

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Kevin O'Connor University of Rochester

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Kevin O'Connor is Assistant Professor of Human Development in the University of Rochester's Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development. His research interests are in the social organization of learning and development. He holds a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Clark University.

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Daniel Amos University of Washington

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Daniel Amos was one of the first ethnographers from the United States to do ethnographic research in the People’s Republic of China. He has taught at five Chinese universities, and directed the Chinese Studies program at Clark Atlanta University. His graduate degrees are from UCLA (Anthropology, 1983) and the University of Chicago (Social Science-Psychology, 1974). He is currently an Acting Instructor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Washington.

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Tori Bailey Stanford University

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Tori Bailey is a PhD student at the Center for Design Research in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Stanford University. Her research interests include academic and professional identity development of engineering students, academic advising of engineering students, history of engineering education in the U.S., and the organization of engineering education programs. Ms. Bailey received a Bachelor's Degree in Mathematics from Spelman College and a Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology where she was a NASA Women in Science and Engineering Scholar. She also holds a Master's Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University.

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Gary Lichtenstein Stanford University

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Gary Lichtenstein, Ed.D. is a Consulting Associate Professor of Engineering at Stanford University, specializing in quantitative and qualitative research methods. His areas of intellectual interest include engineering education, community-based research, and education evaluation and policy. His extensive teaching experience includes courses on qualitative research methods (for graduate students), and on writing and critical thinking (for students ranging from high school to professionals). He lives in southeast Utah. He can be contacted at: garyL@stanfordalumni.org.

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Lari Garrison University of Washington

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Lari Garrison is a Ph.D. candidate in Cognitive Studies in Education at the University of Washington. Currently, she works as a Research Assistant for CAEE (Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education). She received a B.A. and a M.Ed. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and taught high school mathematics for ten years before beginning work on her Ph.D. at UW.

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Heidi Loshbaugh Colorado School of Mines

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Heidi G. Loshbaugh is an Assistant Research Professor in the Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education at Colorado School of Mines. She is also the Associate Director for CSM's Center for Engineering Education. Dr. Loshbaugh taught in CSM's EPICS program, for which she developed extensive course and faculty-support materials, and designed and implemented a leadership course and overseas summer field session. She has recently been appointed to develop a diversity plan for CSM, and has experience in international education, corporate training and coaching, and academic editing.

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Marcus Jones Howard University

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MARCUS JONES is a doctoral student in Educational Psychology at Howard University, and a graduate research assistant for the Center for Advancement of Engineering Education. His research interests include the academic achievement of African American males and the factors that influence attrition among engineering students.

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Derek Seward University of Rochester

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Derek Seward is a doctoral student in the department of Counseling and Human Development at the University of Rochester's Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development.

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Lisa Perhamus University of Rochester

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Lisa Perhamus is a doctoral student in the department of Teaching and Curriculum at the University of Rochester's Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development.

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Reed Stevens University of Washington

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Reed Stevens is an Associate Professor in the College of Education at the University of Washington. He specializes in ethnographic and comparative approaches to studying how people learn, especially in disciplines related to mathematics, science, technology, and design. He is currently co-leading two NSF Centers working on issues related to how people learn, the LIFE Center and CAEE. 

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

Sponsorship: Engineering’s Tacit Gatekeeper

Abstract

Recent educational theory emphasizes the importance of considering identity processes in studying learning and development. In engineering education, identity has been cited as central in student development, for example, as a key factor in retention of students in the discipline, in particular with regard to underrepresented groups. This paper adopts a social theory of identity to examine how dynamics of “sponsorship” relates to students’ decisions of whether to remain in or switch out of engineering. This paper draws on longitudinal case studies of two students to examine the relationship between students’ interests and their decisions to persist in or leave their major. We argue that students’ interests become differentially identified as “intrinsic” or “extrinsic” to engineering through the work of powerful sponsors within the discipline. We argue further that a view of identity as socially produced is necessary in order to avoid taking for granted crucial aspects of disciplinary practices of identifying engineers, and in particular ways in which certain kinds of interests might be sponsored over and above others.

Introduction

Recent educational research has emphasized the centrality of identity to learning and development.1 In engineering education research and in SMET fields more broadly, formation of a professional identity is increasingly viewed as fundamental to learning, retention, and persistence, in particular with regard to historically underrepresented groups.2, 3, 4 In this paper, we explore the relationship between students’ interests and their decisions to persist in or withdraw from their majors. Our paper contributes to this research through a longitudinal ethnographic study of students’ trajectories into and out of engineering, focusing analytically on what social scientists have termed “sponsorship.”5

Identity and engineering education

We address these issues by adopting a social and relational theory of identity.6, 7, 8 Most work on identity in engineering education has viewed identity as part of a “psychological core” that is located in individuals.3,4 In this view, while identity can be influenced by aspects of the social context through processes of socialization, it is seen as essentially a psychological phenomenon and an individual possession. In contrast, we draw on anthropological and other sociocultural approaches that see identity not as a relatively stable possession of an individual, but as an ongoing project of construction by a given individual together with the others with whom she comes into contact. Thus, who an individual is—that is, her identity—depends upon how she actively identifies herself and is actively identified by others within the various social fields in which she acts: friendships, a families, universities, professions, etc. In this view, identity is “double-sided,” 8 meaning that identity is both something experienced (as in “I am an engineer”), and also something ascribed and maintained by others (as in “you are an engineer”); through these processes, identities are contingently accomplished. We view as an open question the issue

O'Connor, K., & Amos, D., & Bailey, T., & Lichtenstein, G., & Garrison, L., & Loshbaugh, H., & Jones, M., & Seward, D., & Perhamus, L., & Stevens, R. (2007, June), Sponsorship: Engineering’s Tacit Gatekeeper Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. https://peer.asee.org/2641

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