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Using a Critical Incident-centered Transition Theory Framework to Explore Engineering Education Research Faculty Transitions

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Conference

2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Research Methods

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count

13

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/31192

Download Count

62

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Paper Authors

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Alexandra Coso Strong Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0003-4988-361X

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Alexandra Coso Strong is an assistant professor of systems design and engineering at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. Prior to starting a faculty position at Olin, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Georgia Tech’s Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning. She completed her Ph.D. in 2014 in Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Tech. Alexandra received her B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from MIT and her M.S. in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia. Her research interests include engineering design education (especially in regards to the design of complex systems), faculty development, career pathways (both academic and industry), approaches for supporting education research-to-practice.

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Courtney S. Smith-Orr University of North Carolina, Charlotte

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Courtney S. Smith,PhD is a Teaching Assistant Professor and Undergraduar Director at UNC Charlotte. Her research interests span the mentoring experiences of African American women in engineering,minority recruitment and retention, and best practices for diversity and inclusion in the Engineering classroom.

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Cheryl A. Bodnar Rowan University

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Cheryl A. Bodnar, Ph.D., CTDP is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Experiential Engineering Education at Rowan University. Dr. Bodnar’s research interests relate to the incorporation of active learning techniques in undergraduate classes as well as integration of innovation and entrepreneurship into the engineering curriculum. In particular, she is interested in the impact that these tools can have on student perception of the classroom environment, motivation and learning outcomes. She obtained her certification as a Training and Development Professional (CTDP) from the Canadian Society for Training and Development (CSTD) in 2010, providing her with a solid background in instructional design, facilitation and evaluation. She was selected to participate in the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Frontiers of Engineering Education Symposium in 2013 and awarded the American Society for Engineering Education Educational Research Methods Faculty Apprentice Award in 2014.

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Walter C. Lee Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-5082-1411

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Dr. Walter Lee is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Education and the assistant director for research in the Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Diversity (CEED), both at Virginia Tech. His research interests include co-curricular support, student success and retention, and diversity. Lee received his Ph.D in engineering education from Virginia Tech, his M.S. in industrial & systems engineering from Virginia Tech, and his B.S. in industrial engineering from Clemson University.

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Courtney June Faber University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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Courtney is a Research Assistant Professor and Lecturer in the Cook Grand Challenge Engineering Honors Program at the University of Tennessee. She completed her Ph.D. in Engineering & Science Education at Clemson University. Prior to her Ph.D. work, she received her B.S. in Bioengineering at Clemson University and her M.S. in Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University. Courtney’s research interests include epistemic cognition in the context of problem solving, and researcher identity.

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Erin J. McCave University of Houston

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Erin is an Instructional Assistant Professor in the Cullen College of Engineering at the University of Houston. She joined the University of Houston after completing a postdoctoral/lecturer position split between the General Engineering program and the Engineering & Science Education Department and a Ph.D. in Bioengineering from Clemson University. Erin’s research interests include preparing students for their sophomore year, minority student engineering identity development, and providing mentoring relationships to help foster student growth and success.

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Abstract

This research paper describes the development of a critical incident-centered analysis methodology based on Schlossberg’s Transition Theory to explore transitions experienced by engineering education researchers as they begin new faculty positions. Understanding the transition experiences of scholars aiming to impact change within engineering education is important for identifying approaches to support the sustained success of these scholars at their institutions and within engineering education more broadly. To date, efforts to better prepare future faculty for academic roles have primarily focused on preparing them to be independent researchers, to teach undergraduate courses, and to support their ability to advance their career. Research of early career faculty is similarly limited in scope, focusing mostly on new faculty at research-exclusive universities or on faculty member’s teaching and research practices. To address this gap in the literature, our research team is examining the role of institutional context on the agency of early career engineering education faculty as it relates to facilitating change.

As part of this larger project, the focus of this paper is on the integration of critical incident techniques and Schlossberg’s Transition Theory to create “incident timelines” that explore the transition of early career engineering education researchers into new faculty positions. Our paper will illustrate how this integration provided an effective methodology to: 1) explore a diverse set of transitions into faculty positions, 2) identify critical events that impact these transitions, 3) isolate strategies that supported the faculty members in different aspects of their transitions, and 4) examine connections between events and strategies over time and across faculty members’ transitions. Transition Theory provides a lens to explore how individuals identify and adapt based on transitions in their lives. An individual’s transition, according to Schlossberg, tends to include three phases: moving in, moving through, and moving out. Over the course of those phases, the individual’s experiences are influenced by the context of the transition, the characteristics of the individual such as their motivations and beliefs, the extent to which they have support, and the strategies they utilize. Given the complexity of a transition into a faculty position, it was necessary to determine the extent to which particular events and the relationship between events impacted a new faculty member’s experience. To accomplish this, we integrated a critical incident analysis to specifically investigate individual events that were considered significant to the overall transition leading to the development of an incident timeline.

We applied our approach to monthly reflections of six new engineering faculty members from diverse institutional contexts who identify as engineering education researchers. The monthly reflections asked each participant to provide their impressions of the faculty role, in what ways they felt like a faculty member, and in what ways they did not. Through an iterative data analysis process, we developed initial incident timelines for each participant’s transition. Follow-up interviews with the participants allowed us to explore each event in more detail and provided an opportunity for reflection-on-action by the participant. These incidents were then further explored to distinguish strategies used and support received. Finally, we examined connections between events and strategies over time to identify overarching themes common to these types of faculty transitions. In this methods paper, we will demonstrate the usefulness of this variation of the critical incident approach for exploring complex professional transitions by highlighting the details of our incident timeline analysis.

Strong, A. C., & Smith-Orr, C. S., & Bodnar, C. A., & Lee, W. C., & Faber, C. J., & McCave, E. J. (2018, June), Using a Critical Incident-centered Transition Theory Framework to Explore Engineering Education Research Faculty Transitions Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/31192

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