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Developing Engineering Identity in an Introductory Engineering Course: A Multi-Case Analysis

Christine Allison Gray & Ron E. Gray & Martha M. Canipe & Shadow W. J. Armfield & Robin Tuchscherer 

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Abstract: Research in engineering education has identified several factors relevant to the development of students’ identity as engineers. Here we examine the engineering identity of undergraduate engineering students after an introductory engineering course. The specific research question explored here is: “How do engineering students in an introductory engineering course interpret competence, performance, and recognition in relation to their identities as engineers?” We used a modified engineering identity framework to explore the development of engineering identity within the undergraduate engineering context through a multiple case study approach. Six students majoring in engineering participated in the study. The students had divergent perspectives on what it meant to be competent as an engineer. In all cases, students connected both competence and performance as an engineer with persistence. At this introductory stage, self-recognition as an engineering person took center stage for each student. All were able to identify themselves strongly as an engineering person. The findings add to the current understandings about the development of engineering identity, and suggest that engineering identity may be critically important in conversations about the steps faculty may take in working with students to promote increased retention of undergraduate students in engineering.

Keywords: Engineering Identity; Multi-case study; Undergraduate.

Please Cite: Gray, C.A., Gray, R.E., Canipe, M.M., Armfield, S.W.J., & Tuchscherer, R. (2021). Developing engineering identity in an introductory engineering course: A multi-case analysis. Journal of Research in Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 4(3), 153-177. DOI:


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Online First

STEM Education and Science Identity Formation

Ellina Chernobilsky

Download: 133, size: 0, date: 10.Jan.2021

As the world struggles with the COVID pandemic, one question that keeps coming up in conversations
among educators is how to teach students amid the uncertainty. Specifically, the difficulty is with
teaching subjects that require hands-on learning in order to master the concepts and make them one’s
own. Today, however, I would like to pose a different, more global question: How can we help
students identify with science in a deeper, more meaningful way? How can we help students
develop what is known as science identity?


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