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Voicing the Indescribable - Using Photo Elicitation as a Method to Uncover Belonging and Community

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Research Methods I: Developing Research Tools and Methods

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Nicole P. Pitterson Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Nicole is a postdoctoral scholar at Oregon State University. She holds a PhD in Engineering Education from Purdue University and other degrees in Manufacturing Engineering from Western Illinois University and a B.Sc. in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the University of Technology, Jamaica. Her research interest is eliciting conceptual understanding of AC circuit concepts using active learning strategies.

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Juan David Ortega Universidad EAFIT, Medellin, Colombia - Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Juan David Ortega Álvarez is an assistant professor at Universidad EAFIT and served as the Head of the Process Engineering Department from 2010 to 2014. He holds an MS in Process Engineering and Energy Technology from Hochschule Bremerhaven (Germany) and is currently enrolled as a graduate student in the Engineering Education Doctoral Program at Purdue University. Before his full-time appointment with EAFIT, he served as Engineering Director for a chemical company for 7 years. His research interests are focused on the practice and teaching of process design, simulation and control and also on faculty and institutional development through engineering education research.

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Ruth A. Streveler Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Ruth A. Streveler is an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Dr. Streveler has been the Principal Investigator or co-Principal Investigator of ten grants funded by the US National Science Foundation. She has published articles in the Journal of Engineering Education and the International Journal of Engineering Education and has contributed to the Cambridge Handbook of Engineering Education Research. She has presented workshops to over 500 engineering faculty on four continents. Dr. Streveler’s primary research interests are investigating students’ understanding of difficult concepts in engineering science and helping engineering faculty conduct rigorous research in engineering education.

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Robin Adams Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Robin S. Adams is an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University and holds a PhD in Education, an MS in Materials Science and Engineering, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering. She researches cross-disciplinarity ways of thinking, acting and being; design learning; and engineering education transformation.

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Eleven years ago two NSF-funded programs aimed at fostering the development of a Community of Practice (CoP) among engineering education researchers, the Rigorous Research in Engineering Education (RREE) and the Institute for Scholarship on Engineering Education (ISEE), were initiated. Both programs ran from 2004 to 2006 and, although independently, were highly complementary in terms of goals, design and impacts. The RREE and ISSE programs involved approximately 200 (147 RREE and 48 ISEE) faculty members in workshops and other professional development learning experiences that helped them become aware of and learn how to navigate the nuances of conducting engineering education research (EER) that met the standards of any scholarly field.

While big-data analytics can be applied to show evidence of a developed and existing community of practice among past participants of the RREE and ISEE programs, individual stories of “becoming engineering education researchers” are impossible to capture using such techniques. In order to gain insights of the lived experiences from some participants after more than 10 years since their experience in these programs, we took a qualitative approach and conducted semi-structured interviews using photo elicitation.

So far we have collectively interviewed a total of 37 past participants, 21 for RREE and 16 for ISEE. This paper focuses on the results from the RREE past participants. We used a protocol that was divided into two main sections: I. eliciting engineering education research stories and II. becoming an engineering education researcher. This paper will report on section one where participants were asked to submit three photos or images that they felt were good representations of: (1) themselves before participating in the workshops, (2) where they see themselves presently and (3) where they hope to be in the future.

Of the 21 participants that were interviewed for the follow-up to the RREE project, 18 provided the solicited photos/images and discussed their rationale for their choice when prompted in the interviews. The photos/images spanned the range of personal life events or interests to career and research endeavors.

In this paper we will describe the common themes associated with the photos/images in terms of how participants identified with the photos/images and their justification for choosing them. The idea behind this approach is that through the selection of photos/images participants are able to not only produce a visual progression of their identity since the workshops, but to also serve as a starting point for verbalizing connections in their experiences they may have long forgotten existed. This paper will add to the body of literature that seeks to uncover stories or information that might be difficult to voice or describe.

Pitterson, N. P., & Ortega, J. D., & Streveler, R. A., & Adams, R. (2016, June), Voicing the Indescribable - Using Photo Elicitation as a Method to Uncover Belonging and Community Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27186

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