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

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


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.


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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.