Engineering education research methods to determine conceptions of engineers and of engineering.
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Engineering education research has been categorised into the five research areas of ‘engineering epistemologies’, ‘engineering learning mechanisms’, ‘engineering learning systems’, engineering diversity and inclusiveness’, and ‘engineering assessment’ (Adams et al., 2006). Of particular importance to research concerned with engineering diversity and inclusiveness are definitions and conceptions of engineers and engineering. While the National Academy of Engineering (2008, p.5) defines engineering as a profession in which engineers “constantly discover how to improve our lives by creating bold new solutions that connect science to life in unexpected, forward-thinking ways”, they do acknowledge that most students have a limited understanding of what engineering is and what engineers actually do. A substantial number of empirical studies examining students understanding of engineers and engineering corroborate this, finding that the concept of an engineer is often narrow and stereotyped (Capobianco, Diefes-Dux, Mena, & Weller, 2011; Ergün & Doğukan Balçın, 2018; Fralick, Kearn, Thompson, & Lyons, 2009; Karatas, Micklos, & Bodner, 2011). This creates a significant implication of engineering education research as when constructs such as interest or motivation in engineering are being investigated, study participants, who are typically students, may be operating with varied conceptions of engineering. Therefore, while they may all be asked the same questions, but they may all be answering relative to different concepts.
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