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Title: “Towards the Development of a Research Engineer Identity Scale”
This paper reports on research that is part of a broader National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded, Innovations in Graduate Education (IGE) project. The project aims to enhance the research culture and broaden the participation in research of underrepresented groups within graduate engineering programs at a mid-sized historically black college or university. The project includes three initiatives that seek to assist in the development of a “research engineer identity” among the graduate students pursuing research-based degrees in the college. One of the three initiatives of the project, and focus of this paper, involves the development of a survey-based Research Engineer Identity Scale (REIS). A two stage sequential mixed-method research design is being used to develop the scale. This paper focuses on the first stage in the design which involved conducting focus groups with research engineers to gain insight into the content, character, and complications associated with internalizing a Research Engineer Identity (REI) in general and among people from underrepresented groups in particular. We report on four semi-structured focus groups that each lasted approximately 90 minutes in Fall 2019. Each focus group included about 6 to 9 faculty members, industry professionals, or graduate students who actively engaged in engineering research in the Southeastern United States. Focus group participants represented various academic disciplines within engineering as well as a range of demographic characteristics such as sex, race, ethnicity, and citizenship status. The focus group conversations were transcribed and transcriptions were entered into NVivo for coding and analysis. Inter-rater reliability procedures were used to ensure consistency of coding. This paper reports on the themes that emerged within the focus group discussions regarding what it means to “be a research engineer.” The findings describe similarities and differences across demographic characteristics in regard to the content, character, and complications associated with efforts to develop a Research Engineer Identity. The paper concludes by briefly describing the process that will be used to transform the emergent themes into pool of items to be included in a web-based questionnaire designed to measure Research Engineer Identity.  more » « less
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Zone 1 Conference of the American Society for Engineering Education
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National Science Foundation
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