As the field of engineering education continues to evolve, the number of early career scholars who identify as members of the discipline will continue to increase. These engineering education scholars will need to take strategic and intentional actions towards their professional goals and the goals of the engineering education community to be impactful within their positions. In other words, they must exercise agency. Accordingly, the purpose of this study is to investigate how the agency of early career, engineering education scholars manifests across different contexts. Our overarching research question is: How do institutional, individual, and disciplinary field and societal features influence early career engineering education faculty member’s agency to impact engineering education in their particular positions?
To investigate how faculty agency manifests across different contexts, we adopted a longitudinal research approach to focus on our own experiences as engineering education scholars. Due to the complexity of the phenomenon, more common approaches to qualitative research (e.g., interviews, surveys, etc.) were unlikely to illuminate the manifestation of agency, which requires capturing the nuances associated with one’s day-to-day experiences. Thus, to address our research purpose, we required a research design that provided a space to explore one’s acceptance of ambiguity, responses to disappointments, willingness to adapt, process of adapting, and experiences with collaboration.
The poster presented will provide a preliminary version of the model along with a detailed description of the methods used to develop it. In short, we integrated collaborative inquiry and collaborative autoethnography as a means for building our model. Autoethnography is a research approach that critically examines personal experience to explore a cultural phenomenon. Collaborative autoethnography, which leverages collective sense-making of the data, informed the structure of our data collection. Specifically, we documented our individual experiences over the course of six semesters by (1) completing weekly, monthly, pre-semester, and post-semester reflection questions; (2) participating in periodic activities and discussions focused on targeted areas of our theoretical framework and relevant literature; and (3) discussing the outcomes from both (1) and (2) in weekly meetings. Collaborative inquiry, in contrast to collaborative autoethnography, is a research approach where people pair reflection on practice with action through multiple inquiry cycles. Collaborative inquiry guided the topics of discussion within our weekly meetings and how we approached challenges and other aspects of our positions.
The combination of these methodologies allowed us to deeply and systematically explore our own experiences, allowing us to develop a model of professional agency towards change in engineering education through collaborative sense-making. By sharing our findings with current and developing engineering education graduate programs, we will enable them to make programmatic changes to benefit current and future engineering education scholars. These findings also will provide a mechanism for divisions within ASEE to develop programming and resources to support the sustained success and impact of their members.
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