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  1. Abstract Background

    Engineering education scholars (EES) seek to advance innovation, excellence, and access within education systems and the engineering profession. To advance such efforts, the intentional and strategic actions taken by scholars must be better understood.

    Purpose/Hypothesis

    This study aimed to advance the field's understanding of agency toward impact by (1) closely examining the experiences of early career EES pursuing impact in engineering education and (2) co‐constructing a contextualized theory of agency. We define agency as taking strategic actions or perspectives toward professional goals that matter to oneself and goals that relate to impacting engineering education.

    Design/Method

    Building on previous work about faculty agency, we leveraged approaches from grounded theory and integrated multiple qualitative approaches to analyze our experiences as six early career EES over the course of a 4‐year longitudinal study.

    Results

    Seven key insights about the professional agency toward impact in engineering education of early career EES emerged from the analysis. The contextualized theory and resulting visual representation illustrate this agency as a cyclical process with three components: (1) the factors influencing one's agency, (2) the agentic process itself, and (3) the output of the agentic process.

    Conclusions

    Our co‐constructed contextualized theory extends previous work by incorporating the temporal nature of agency, the generation and assessment of available moves, and the importance of feedback on future agentic practices. Our results have implications on how the engineering education community supports graduate students, early career scholars, and new members in their efforts to impact change.

     
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  2. null (Ed.)
    Two methods of assessing senior chemical engineering student ethical decision making in a process safety context were developed; the case-study-based Engineering Process Safety Reasoning Instrument (EPSRI) and a digital immersive environment entitled Contents Under Pressure. Both interventions had similar ethical and process safety decision prompts, but were presented in different manners; the EPSRI as a traditional electronic survey, and Contents Under Pressure as a digital immersive environment (“game”). 148 chemical engineering seniors at three institutions responded to both interventions and responses were compared. Student responses to the traditionally formatted EPSRI revealed most students applied post-conventional reasoning, which is uncommon for students in their age range. This suggests that students are aware of the ethical framing of the instrument, and answer accordingly with the perceived “right” response. Student responses to Contents Under Pressure showed significant differences from the EPSRI, including more typical conventional responses. These results suggest that the authenticity of the digital environment can produce more realistic student responses to ethical and process safety dilemmas. Situating ethical and process safety instruction within this type of educational intervention may allow students to gain insight on their ethical decision making process in a safer, low-risk environment. 
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  3. Alongside the continued evolution of the field of engineering education, the number of early career faculty members who identify as members of the discipline continues to increase. This growth has resulted in a new wave of roles, titles, and experiences for engineering education researchers, many of which have yet to be explored and understood. To address this gap, our research team is investigating the ways in which early career engineering education faculty are able to achieve impact in their current roles. Our aim is to provide insights on the ways in which these researchers can have new and evolving forms of impact within the engineering education field. The work presented herein explores the transition experiences of our research team, consisting of six early-career faculty, and the ways in which we experience agency at the individual, institutional, and field and societal levels. Doing so is necessary to consider the diverse backgrounds, visions, goals, plans, and commitments of early career faculty members. Guided by two qualitative research methodologies: collaborative inquiry and collaborative autoethnography, we are able to explore our lived experiences and respective academic cultures through iterative cycles of reflection and action towards agency. The poster presented will provide an update on our NSF RFE work through Phase 1 of our two phase investigation. Thus far the investigation has involved analysis of our reflections from the first two years of our faculty roles to identify critical incidents within the early career transition and development of our identities as faculty members. Additionally, we have collected reflective data to understand each of our goals, relevant aspects of our identity and desired areas of impact. Analysis of the transition has resulted in new insights on the aspects of transition, focusing on types of impactful situations, and the supports and strategies that are utilized. Analysis has begun to explore the role of identity on each members desired areas of impact and their ability to have impact. Data will also be presented from a survey of near peers, providing insight into the ways in which each early career engineering education faculty believe they are able to and desire to have impact in their current position. The collective analysis around the transition into a faculty role, strategic actions of new faculty, desired impact areas, and faculty identity will play a role in the development of our conceptual model of early career faculty agency. Additionally, this analysis provides the groundwork for phase two of our study, where we will seek to place the experiences of our group within the context of the larger community of early career engineering education faculty. 
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  4. Process safety is at the heart of operation of many chemical processing companies. However, the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) has still documented over 800 investigations of process safety failures since the year 2000. While not all of these incidents were severe, some did lead to employee injuries or death and environmental harm. As a result, chemical engineering companies are increasingly dedicated to process safety through training programs and detailed vigilance as part of their operations practice. AIChE and OSHA also offer courses in process safety to help support the industry. These efforts illustrate the paramount importance that chemical engineering graduates have an appreciation and understanding of process safety as they transition from their degree program into industrial positions. Previous studies have shown that despite difficulties due to course load constraints, process safety has been incorporated into chemical engineering curriculum through either the addition of new courses, incorporation of the content within existing classes, or a combination of the two methods. A review performed in Process Safety Progress suggested that a key step for departments moving forward is to perform an assessment of the process safety culture within their institution in order to determine how faculty and students view process safety. An issue with completing this task is the lack of assessment tools that can be used to determine how students are developing their understanding of process safety decision making. This observation led to the development of the Engineering Process Safety Research Instrument (EPSRI). This instrument is modeled after the Defining Issues Test version 2 (DIT2) and the Engineering Ethical Reasoning Instrument (EERI). Similar to these instruments, the EPSRI provides dilemmas, three decisions, and 12 additional considerations that individuals must rate based on their relative importance to their decision making process. The dilemmas developed in the EPSRI are based on case studies and investigations from process safety failures that have occurred in industry to provide a realistic context for the decision making decisions that engineers may be faced with upon employment. The considerations provided after the scenario are derived to reflect pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional decision making thinking as described by Kohlberg’s Moral Development Theory. Pre-conventional decision making thinking focuses particularly on what is right/wrong or good/bad from an individual level, whereas post-conventional thinking seeks to determine what is correct from moral and value perspectives at the society level. This WIP paper describes the content validity study conducted while developing the EPSRI. Dilemmas were examined by context experts including professionals in the process industry, chemical engineering departments, and learning sciences field. Content experts reviewed the dilemmas and determined whether they represented accurate examples of process safety decision making that individuals may face in real-world engineering settings. The experts also reviewed the 12 considerations for each dilemma for their accuracy in capturing pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional thinking. This work represents the first step in the overall instrument validation that will take place over the next academic year. 
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