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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2025
  2. Abstract Background

    Engineering education seeks to prepare students for engineering practice, but the concept of preparedness is often ill‐defined. Moreover, findings from studies of different populations or in different contexts vary regarding how well new graduates are prepared. These variations, coupled with the lack of clarity, suggest the need to better understand what it means to be prepared for engineering work.


    This study contributes to research on workplace preparation by exploring how new graduates describe being prepared for engineering work.


    Applying secondary analysis to data from the multi‐institution Capstone To Work (C2W) project, we used thematic analysis to explore new engineers' descriptions of preparedness. We analyzed written responses to structured questions about the school‐to‐work transition collected weekly during participants' first 12 weeks of work; 105 graduates drawn from four universities provided 956 responses, with a mean of 9 (out of 12 possible) responses per participant.


    Participants' descriptions of preparedness included applying concrete skills, recognizing familiar situations, and having strategies for approaching challenging tasks even when they lacked relevant knowledge or skill.


    Our findings suggest that although many discussions about workplace preparation implicitly focus narrowly on mastery of skills and knowledge, that focus may not fully capture new graduates' experiences, and may limit discussions about the ways in which school can (and cannot) prepare students for work. A more expansive understanding may better support both student learning and workplace onboarding, though more research is needed across stakeholders to establish shared understanding.

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  3. This paper proposes the use of collaborative secondary data analysis (SDA) as a tool for building capacity in engineering education research. We first characterise the value of collaborative SDA as a tool to help emerging researchers develop skills in qualitative data analysis. We then describe an ongoing collaboration that involves a series of workshops as well as two pilot projects that seek to develop and test frameworks and practices for SDA in engineering education research. We identify emerging benefits and practical challenges associated with implementing SDA as a capacity building tool, and conclude with a discussion of future work. 
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  4. Disabled people continue to be significantly underrepresented and marginalized in engineering. Current reports indicate that approximately 26 percent of US adults have some form of disability. Yet only 6 percent of undergraduate students enrolled in engineering programs belong to this group. Several barriers have been identified that discourage and even prohibit people with disabilities from participating in engineering including arduous accommodations processes, lack of institutional support, and negative peer, staff, and faculty attitudes. These barriers are perpetuated and reinforced by a variety of ableist sociocultural norms and definitions that rely on popularized tropes and medicalized models that influence the ways this group experiences school to become engineers. In this paper, we seek to contribute to conversations that shape understanding of disability identity and the ways it is conceptualized in engineering programs. We revisit interview data from an ongoing grounded theory exploration of professional identity formation of undergraduate civil engineering students who identify as having one or more disabilities. Through our qualitative analysis, we identified overarching themes that contribute to understanding of how participants define and integrate disability identity to form professional identities and the ways they reshape and contribute to the civil engineering field through this lens. Emergent themes include experiencing/considering disability identity as a fluid experience, as a characteristic that ‘sets you apart’, and as a medicalized symptom or condition. Findings from this work can be used by engineering educators and administrators to inform more effective academic and personal support structures to destigmatize disability and promote the participation and inclusion of students and colleagues with disabilities in engineering and in our academic and professional communities. 
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  5. null (Ed.)
    In this paper, we argue that the exploration of engineering judgment in undergraduate education should be grounded at the intersection of decision making, situated cognition, and engineering identity production. In our view, engineering judgment is an embodied cognitive process that is situated in written and oral communication, involved with immediate praxis, and takes place within the contexts of standards and traditions of the engineering communities of practice. Moreover, engineering judgment is constituted as authoritative communication tasks that draw on the subject’s and audience’s common experiences and knowledge base for its clarity and persuasive power (e.g., Weedon (2019), "The role of rhetoric in engineering judgment," IEEE Trans. Prof. Commun. 62(2):165-177). The objective of this work short essay is to review the engineering education literature with the aim of synthesizing the concept of engineering judgment from theories of decision-making, identity, communities of practice, and discourse communities. Although the rationale for developing engineering judgment in undergraduate students is the complexity they will face in professional practice, engineering educators often considerably reduce the complexity of the problems students face (with learning engineering judgement or with engineering judgment in their undergraduate education?). Student work intended to train engineering judgment often prescribes goals and objectives, and demands a one-time decision, product, or solution that faculty or instructors evaluate. The evaluation process might not contain formal methods for foregrounding feedback from experience or reflecting on how the problem or decision emerges; thus, the loop from decision to upstream cognitive processes might not be closed. Consequently, in this paper, our exploration of engineering judgment is guided by the following questions: How have investigators researchers? defined engineering judgment? What are the potential limitations of existing definitions? How can existing definitions be expanded upon? What cognitive processes do students engage to make engineering judgments? How do communication tasks shape students’ engineering judgments? In what ways does engineer identity production shape students’ engineering judgments? How might a definition of engineering judgement suggest areas for improving undergraduate education? 
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  6. National agencies throughout Australia and the United States (U.S.) have called for broadened participation in engineering, including participation by individuals with disabilities. However, studies demonstrate that students with disabilities are not effectively supported by university systems and cultures. This lack of support can shape how students form professional identities as they move through school and into careers. To better understand these experiences and create a more inclusive environment in engineering, we conducted a constructivist grounded theory exploration of professional identity formation in students who identify as having a disability as they study civil engineering and experience their first year of work. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 24 undergraduate civil engineering students across the U.S. and analysed them using grounded theory techniques. Navigating sociocultural expectations of disability emerged as one key theme, consisting of three strategy types: (1) neutrally satisfying expectations, (2) challenging expectations, and (3) aligning with expectations. Regardless of strategy, all participants navigated sociocultural expectations related to their studies and their disabilities. This theme highlights the ways sociocultural influences impact students’ navigation through their undergraduate civil engineering careers. These findings can be used to examine cultural barriers faced by students with disabilities to enhance their inclusion in engineering. 
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  7. Capstone design courses, an established component of undergraduate engineering curricula, offer students the opportunity to synthesize their prior engineering coursework and apply professional and technical skills towards projects with practical application. During this unique experience, capstone faculty enable mentored exploration, coaching students to navigate the design process to complete complex and open-ended projects. However, each capstone scope of work requires project specific knowledge and skills that capstone students need to independently research and comprehend. Findings from our study of recent graduates during their first year on the job suggest that self-directed learning isn’t just occurring in the capstone experience, but it is also an essential skill in professional workplaces. In this paper we share data regarding participants’ experiences relying on self-directed learning while working on their capstone projects and later in post-graduation environments. We consider the ways that capstone design educators can design course content and mentor students to help promote this critical skill and conclude by offering recommendations. 
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  8. Substantial research over the past few decades has documented the challenges women experience both as students in engineering programs and as professionals in engineering workplaces. Few studies, however, have followed women from one context to the other to explore the ways in which school experiences, and particularly capstone experiences designed explicitly to facilitate this transition, do and do not prepare women for their work as practicing engineers. To address this gap, we draw on data from a larger multi-institution study to address the question, “How do women engineers experience the transition from school to work?” The sample for this study includes 23 participants from four different universities (three mechanical engineering programs and one engineering science program). All participants identified as “female” on a screen questionnaire that included options for transgender and gender-nonconforming, as well as an option to skip the question. The data set includes interviews with the participants conducted at the end of their capstone design course, responses to open-ended questions sent each week during their first 12 weeks of work, and interviews conducted after their first three months of work. The capstone interviews explored participants’ experiences in their capstone design course, including project role, significant challenges and accomplishments, and perceived learning, as well as their plans for and expectations of their post-graduation work. The weekly open-ended questions asked participants to describe their most significant challenge over the past week and to explain how they addressed the challenge. Finally, the three-month interviews explored participants’ work experiences, including significant challenges as well as similarities and differences between capstone experiences and work, along with their evolving definitions of engineering. To answer the research question, we will employ thematic analysis to first identify emergent codes from the data set and subsequently synthesize those codes into themes. Preliminary review of the data suggests several potential themes that include overt experiences of gender discrimination, perceptions of (lack of) belonging or competence, and cultural shifts that may not have been effectively addresses in participants’ capstone courses or broader experiences. 
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  9. Abstract Background

    Capstone design courses represent a critical juncture in students' development at the transition from school to work. However, few studies have systematically explored teaching in this context, leaving a significant gap in our ability to concretely describe faculty practices in ways that support subsequent explorations of the relationships between teaching practices and learning outcomes.


    The aim of this study was to develop a comprehensive description of the pedagogical practices used by capstone design faculty from a functional perspective and provide researchers with a framework for subsequent work.


    This study used qualitative methods to analyze interviews with 42 capstone faculty; the participants represent a stratified purposeful sample of respondents to a national survey. Analysis focused on descriptive coding, beginning with a priori codes, to define broad functions, supplemented with emergent coding to identify concrete practices used in the capstone context.


    The study resulted in a model of capstone design teaching that includes nine functions (challenge, protect, coach, promote employability, provide exposure, provide role models, accept and confirm, counsel, and build rapport) and 28 associated practices.


    Capstone faculty use a range of practices designed not only to coach students through the engineering design process but also to more broadly prepare students for workplace practice and build their identity as engineering professionals.

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