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The WRI2TES Project: Writing Research Initiating Identity Transformation in Engineering Students

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Royce Francis The George Washington University

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Dr. Royce Francis is an associate professor in the Department of Engineering Management and Systems Engineering. His engineering education research explores the linkages between professional identity formation and engineering judgment. Dr. Francis earned his Ph.D. from Engineering and Public Policy and Civil and Environmental Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, his M.S. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, and his B.S. in Civil Engineering from Howard University.

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Marie Paretti Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Marie C. Paretti is a Professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech, where she is Associate Director of the Virginia Tech Center for Coastal Studies and Education Director of the interdisciplinary Disaster Resilience and Risk Management graduate program. She received a B.S. in chemical engineering and an M.A. in English from Virginia Tech, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research focuses on communication and collaboration, design education, and identity (including race, gender, class, and other demographic identities) in engineering. She was awarded a CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation to study expert teaching in capstone design courses, and she is PI or co-PI on numerous NSF grants exploring communication, teamwork, design, identity, and inclusion in engineering. Drawing on theories of situated learning and identity development, her research explores examines the ways in which engineering education supports students’ professional development in a range of contexts across multiple dimensions of identity.

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Rachel Riedner

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The NSF Research Initiation in Engineering Formation (RIEF) project described in this paper is grounded in our understanding of the realities of professional practices. Engineers must be able to construct and participate in sound judgments that balance complex, competing objectives or constraints, and they must simultaneously produce recognizable engineering identities that enable them to articulate and justify those judgments to others through a variety of communication mechanisms, including writing. Consequently, the objective of our project isto investigate the ways students produce engineer identities in written artifacts through which they expect to be recognized as engineers. We divided the project into two phases: Phase 1 involving semi-structured interviews designed to conceptualize the engineering judgment process using thematic analysis; Phase 2 involving the design and dissemination of pedagogical approaches based on our results. This paper primarily reports the preliminary results of Phase 1. This project is an instrumental case study using semi-structured artifact-based interviews as the primary data source. Our semi-structured interviews are designed to focus on the ways students construct engineering judgments and produce engineer identities through their written projects. Course documents (including assignments and related material) as well as reflective field notes and analytic memos are used to provide additional contextual data. The data from this project provide a foundation for an understanding of engineering judgment that conceptualizes students as decision makers who participate in acts of engineering judgment. These judgments may be constructed individually, or constructed jointly through the interactions of multiple individuals working in teams to navigate ambiguity, uncertainty, and conflicting objectives. Moreover, our project situates engineering judgment as an interplay among several interdependent cognitive processes, and shows how the theories of identity as in interpretive lens, academic literacies, identity production, and naturalistic decision making can help to explain how undergraduate students come to view themselves as professionals capable of participating in acts of engineering judgment.

Francis, R., & Paretti, M., & Riedner, R. (2022, August), The WRI2TES Project: Writing Research Initiating Identity Transformation in Engineering Students Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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