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Tensions of Integration in Professional Formation: Investigating Development of Engineering Students' Social and Technical Perceptions

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

NSF Grantees’ Poster Session

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.1501.1 - 26.1501.5



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Paper Authors


James L. Huff Harding University Orcid 16x16

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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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Brent K Jesiek Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Dr. Brent K. Jesiek is Associate Professor in the Schools of Engineering Education and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University. He is also an Associate Director of Purdue’s Global Engineering Program, leads the Global Engineering Education Collaboratory (GEEC) research group, and is the recipient of an NSF CAREER award to study boundary-spanning roles and competencies among early career engineers. He holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Michigan Tech and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Science and Technology Studies (STS) from Virginia Tech. Dr. Jesiek draws on expertise from engineering, computing, and the social sciences to advance understanding of geographic, disciplinary, and historical variations in engineering education and practice.

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William C. Oakes Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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William (Bill) Oakes is the Director of the EPICS Program and one of the founding faculty members of the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He has held courtesy appointments in Mechanical, Environmental and Ecological Engineering as well as Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education. He is a registered professional engineer and on the NSPE board for Professional Engineers in Higher Education. He has been active in ASEE serving in the FPD, CIP and ERM. He is the past chair of the IN/IL section. He is a fellow of the Teaching Academy and listed in the Book of Great Teachers at Purdue University./ He was the first engineering faculty member to receive the national Campus Compact Thomas Ehrlich Faculty Award for Service-Learning. He was a co-recipient of the National Academy of Engineering’s Bernard Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education and the recipient of the National Society of Professional Engineers’ Educational Excellence Award and the ASEE Chester Carlson Award. He is a fellow of the American Society for Engineering Education and the National Society of Professional Engineers.

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Carla B. Zoltowski Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Carla B. Zoltowski, Ph.D., is Co-Director of the EPICS Program at Purdue University. She received her B.S. and M.S. in electrical engineering and Ph.D. in engineering education, all from Purdue University. She has served as a lecturer in Purdue’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Dr. Zoltowski’s academic and research interests include human-centered design learning and assessment, service-learning, ethical reasoning development and assessment, leadership, and assistive technology.

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Kavitha Durga Ramane

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William G Graziano Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Tensions of Integration in Professional Formation: Investigating Development of Engineering Students' Social and Technical PerceptionsTwenty-first century engineers face incredible challenges and opportunities, many of which aresocially complex, transcending the traditional “technical” boundaries of engineering. Thetechnology produced by engineers must not only function as predicted by mathematical andtheoretical models but must also operate beneficially and seamlessly in complex social contexts.In this sense, engineers must embody an integrated social and technical – or sociotechnical –identity rather than a dualistic social/technical one.A growing body of scholarship has discussed how dominant cultures of engineering shapestudents’ and professionals’ understandings of social and technical dimensions of their work.Further, engineering education research has advanced understanding of how engineering identityis formed by external, structural forces. Yet, from a psychological perspective, we know littleabout how engineering students come to perceive and embody their identities as engineers,especially in relation to social and technical dimensions of these identities. Thus, we organizedthis study around the following research questions.RQ0: How do students psychologically experience identity trajectories of becoming engineers?RQ1: How do students perceive the social and technical features of engineering identity?RQ2: How do students internally experience their identities as engineers, particularly with regard to social and technical dimensions of these identities?RQ3: How do social and technical perceptions of their engineering identity develop and change in the course of the engineering curriculum or in the transition to the workplace?To respond to these research questions, we have conducted two longitudinal studies usinginterpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). One study focused on graduating seniors as theytransitioned into the workplace, and the second study focused on first-year students transitioningto engineering degree coursework. These investigations produced robust and nuancedunderstanding of students’ engineering identity trajectories throughout and beyond thecurriculum. These findings are being leveraged in order to provide our initial understanding in athematic analysis on sophomore engineering students.Thus far, the findings of the investigation highlight the complexity of becoming both engineers,specifically by demonstrating a somewhat contradictory relationship between what participantsperceived to be engineering and how they actually embodied an engineering-self. They furtherdemonstrate the manifold ways that participants realized and prioritized identities outside ofengineering and how these multiple selves interacted in ways that affected their engineeringidentities. Additionally, findings for both male and female groups suggest that somepsychological patterns might be related to gender. In sum, the findings depict a complex pictureof engineering-students-turned-engineers as whole persons. By focusing on how engineeringidentity development is embodied, the findings generate multiple theoretical insights that bearrelevance for engineering education research and provocative implications that bear significancefor engineering educators, students, and employers.

Huff, J. L., & Jesiek, B. K., & Oakes, W. C., & Zoltowski, C. B., & Ramane, K. D., & Graziano, W. G. (2015, June), Tensions of Integration in Professional Formation: Investigating Development of Engineering Students' Social and Technical Perceptions Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24838

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