2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference

Special Session: Answering How and Why Questions with Qualitative Research

Presented at Veterans Track - Technical Session I

Underrepresented groups in engineering education often feel isolated in undergraduate engineering programs, making it difficult for them to reach their full academic potential. Many engineering academic affairs offices provide services and programming to make students feel welcomed and promote conditions for success. Although these programs may benefit students, some students are unable or unwilling to participate. Similarly, faculty professional development efforts for producing a more inclusive learning environment often have uneven impacts.

Engineering Academic Affairs professionals often ask what makes their programs work and how they can positively impact students. Addressing these questions necessitates understanding the factors that undergird student success, and the individual student characteristics and histories that promote active engagement. This workshop will introduce innovative qualitative research methods that have been used successfully with student veterans in engineering (SVEs) to reveal their motivations, experiences, salient identities, and conditions that affect their success in engineering education.

The session aims to identify research questions that can be answered through qualitative methods, as well as demonstrate methods for eliciting narratives from students who may be reluctant to share their experiences. We provide examples of qualitative methods that have been used successfully to obtain stories from SVEs and demonstrate how qualitative research results can inform practice and policy pertaining to student success.

This 90-minute interactive session will describe recruiting, focus group, and interview techniques that provide a deeper understanding of the experiences of students in engineering education. Workshop leaders will model these techniques and participants will have opportunities to develop their own research questions and consider creative techniques to answer those questions.

Workshop Agenda
• Introductory exercise, workshop overview and framing questions (15)
• Focus group techniques and exercise (15)
• Pair-share activity/discussion: Developing focus group research questions (15)
• Interview techniques and identity circle exercise (15)
• Pair-share activity/discussion: Developing interview research questions (25)
• Conclusion/questions (5)

  1. Dr. Catherine Mobley Clemson University [biography]
  2. Michelle M. Camacho University of San Diego [biography]
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