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Uncovering Forms of Wealth and Capital Using Asset Frameworks in Engineering Education

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Works in Progress: Facilitating Student Success and Inclusion

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Julie P. Martin Clemson University

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Julie P. Martin is an assistant professor of Engineering and Science Education at Clemson University. Her research interests focus on social factors affecting the recruitment, retention, and career development of underrepresented students in engineering. Dr. Martin is a 2009 NSF CAREER awardee for her research entitled, “Influence of Social Capital on Under-Represented Engineering Students Academic and Career Decisions.” She held an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science and Technology Policy Fellowship in 2012-2013, with a placement at the National Science Foundation.

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Samuel S. Newton Clemson University

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Samuel S. Newton is an undergraduate researcher pursuing a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering at Clemson University. He plans to enter the aerospace industry and is considering a M.S. in Aerospace Engineering. His interests pertain to aircraft design.

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This work-in-progress paper presents intermediate results from a project for which the authors are seeking feedback from the engineering education community. The goal of our research is to illuminate aspects of “capital,” “wealth,” and “knowledge” that are not yet widely recognized and/or valued by the institution of engineering education. The current normative state of engineering education requires students to either adopt or adapt a narrow range of assets and characteristics in order to pursue higher education. Our work is critical in that our study explores the potential for multiple, and perhaps unexpected, sources of capital, wealth and knowledge by investigating the experiences of recent engineering graduates using asset (rather than deficit) frameworks. We thus aim to identify assets that students bring from their background, culture, and life experience to their undergraduate engineering education by exploring the research question:

In the varying experiences of engineering students who are underrepresented and/or socially marginalized, what forms of capital, wealth, and knowledge are identified as significant?

Our work employs two theoretical frameworks, Community Cultural Wealth (CCW) and Funds of Knowledge (FoK), in order to answer this question. The CCW framework asserts that underrepresented communities possess aspirational, familial, social, navigational, linguistic, cultural, and resistant capital, all of which are extrinsic to educational institutions. The FoK framework acknowledges that regardless of what society views as useful, students have skills and resources that can and should be used by the institution.

Our qualitative research utilizes a one-on-one semi-structured interview method derived from McIntosh’s “serial testimony” technique. This method elicits participants’ perceptions of unearned advantages and disadvantages related to their engineering education. Our thematic analysis uses a priori and emergent codes to categorize participants’ responses based on our chosen theoretical frameworks.

To date, we have interviewed eight individuals who earned a bachelors degree in engineering within the last five years, and are now employed or continuing their studies as graduate students. Through their testimony responses, we have been able to identify the various forms of CCW and FoK that are salient for our participants and derive rich descriptions and embodiments of these forms of capital. We have also found evidence of other forms of capital that are not currently included in the CCW framework, such as spiritual capital. Thus, we believe that our work has the potential to extend these frameworks.

The testimonies of our eight participants demonstrate how differences, as well as similarities, from the norms valued in engineering education help students succeed. Additionally, our results bring asset-based language and theories into the engineering education lexicon.

Martin, J. P., & Newton, S. S. (2016, June), Uncovering Forms of Wealth and Capital Using Asset Frameworks in Engineering Education Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27087

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