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Prior research on faculty-student interactions in engineering education generally conceptualizes the function of these episodes to be supportive of professional development. In this paper, we examine the experience of professional shame amid faculty-student interactions. More generally, we examine the emotional significance of interactions between faculty and students and how such moments can affect how students cope with the experience of professional shame. Our findings are based on a thematic analysis that followed a broader qualitative mixed-method investigation of how engineering students experience professional shame. Specifically, we analyzed specific episodes of moments where the experience of shame was connected to faculty members within focus group transcripts (n = 10) of engineering students (n = 38) and interview transcripts with engineering students (n = 16). We generated three themes that characterized the experience of professional shame amid faculty-student interactions. First, faculty would engender shame through conveying vague, holistic expectations of what it means to be an engineer. Second, students would cope with the experience of shame by blaming the faculty member for the experience. Finally, some students saw the faculty member as a source of hope while they experienced professional shame. These findings point to the crucial role that faculty play in not only preparing engineering students for professional practice but also for cultivating environments of well-being within engineering programs.more » « less
BACKGROUND Previous work has identified the reality of structural constraints placed on engineering students from underrepresented gender, racial, or ethnic backgrounds, a process known as minoritization. Students from minoritized and marginalized backgrounds are often expected to overcome additional obstacles in order to be successful in engineering or to claim identity as an engineer. Such a cultural backdrop contributes to the experience of professional shame, which has not yet been characterized in the lived experiences of engineering students who identify with minoritized backgrounds. PURPOSE We contend that professional shame is a major factor in both creating and perpetuating cycles of marginalization that inhibit students from forming a professional identity as an engineer or succeeding in their academic program. Anchored in theoretical foundations of psychology and sociology, we define professional shame as a painful emotional experience that occurs when individuals perceive themselves to be wholly inadequate in relation to identity-relevant standards within a professional domain. In this paper, we examine the lived experiences of professional shame in undergraduate engineering students in the United States who identify with racial, gender, or ethnic backgrounds that are minoritized within the structural constraints of their engineering programs. METHODS To answer our research question: How do students from minoritized gender, racial or ethnic backgrounds experience professional shame within the context of engineering education? We conducted an interpretative methodological analysis (IPA). Specifically, we conducted semi-structured interviews with junior engineering majors (n = 7) from two predominantly white institutions (PWIs) who self-identified as being from a minoritized gender, racial, or ethnic background. We found IPA to be especially effective in answering our research question while affirming the nuances of the diversity found in our participants’ gender, racial and ethnic backgrounds. We carefully analyzed the interview transcripts, generating descriptive, linguistic, and contextual comments. These comments informed multiple emergent themes for each participant, which were subsequently integrated into robust themes that characterized the psychological experiences shared by all participants. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS Our findings are summarized in four robust, psychological themes. First, minoritized identities were salient in moments of professional shame. Second, in response to professional shame, students sought out confirmation of belonging within the engineering space. Third, their perception of engineering as an exceptionally difficult major that required exceptional smartness intensified the shame experience. And, finally, participants experienced a tension between wanting to adhere to engineering stereotypes and wanting to diverge from or alter engineering stereotypes. SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPLICATIONS Through examining participants’ experiences of shame and subsequent struggle to belong and claim identity as an engineer, we seek to address efforts in bolstering diversity, equity, and inclusion that may be hindered by the permeation of professional shame in the experience of minoritized students. We see these findings as critical in giving insight on how minoritization occurs and so that equity can become a systemic objective for everyone in the engineering community rather than the burden only on the shoulders of those who are marginalized by the community.more » « less
Matusovich, Holly M (Ed.)This paper describes the use of a novel research platform called SenseMaker® to collect and analyze real-time data in the form of participants’ qualitative accounts of COVID-19 along with online learning experiences and participants’ own quantitative assessments of those experiences. Participants were faculty, students, and staff in the College of Engineering at the University of Georgia during Spring 2020. Results from two waves of data collection informed real-time recommendations to College faculty and administration to address COVID-19-related challenges. Results also facilitated faculty development programming to build instructor communities of learning and support in response to the University’s transition to online learning.more » « less
Prior research established that expectations play a significant role in students educational experiences. Academic and non-academic expectations can contribute to students’ stress and anxiety, and have been shown to impact achievement and retention. This study uses ethnographic methods to investigate how expectations are socially constructed in engineering programs and how students’ come to internalize these expectations. Data was collected in ten focus groups with a total of 38 participants at two universities with different institutional characteristics. The qualitative analysis drew on constant comparative methods and proceeded from topic coding of sources of expectations to interpretive coding of mechanisms in which students internalized experiences. More specifically, sources of expectations were identified as academics, superiors, peers, extra-curricular, and from outside the major. The rich account of students' lived-experiences shows a complex interplay of expectations from multiple sources. The mechanisms of compounding, conflicting, and triangulating expectations show that the interactions of expectations can amplify their emotional impacts on students. The results indicate that students judge their own performance or belonging in engineering relative to the systemic functioning of expectations. For educators, this insight has profound implications on how we communicate performance standards without inadvertently reinforcing social performance expectations that can contribute to problematic cultural features of engineering learning environments.more » « less
This research paper presents the findings of an interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) case study of the experience of shame in a woman engineering student. Our overarching research question that framed this study was: How do woman students with multiple salient identities psychologically experience shame in the context of engineering education? We present findings derived from in-depth analysis of an interview with a single case: A White, female student-athlete who majored in mechanical engineering at a private, liberal arts university (pseudonym: Nicole). We selected Nicole as a case in order to critically examine the tensions experienced among multiple salient identities in women engineering students. The findings demonstrate how the study participant internally negotiated the expectations of others with her own self-concept. That is to say, in reaction to a shame experience, the participant evaluated and often adjusted the value she ascribed to the expectations of others and the ways in which those expectations fit into her core identity. Overall, the findings provide a sensitive description with which connections can be forged between broader discussions of engineering education and how cultural expectations manifest within the lived experience of the individual student.more » « less
This brief paper summarizes our major research activities and outcomes in relation to an investigation of shame in the engineering context, a study that was funded through the NSF EEC RFE program (1752897). Based on suggestive evidence from prior engineering education research, we maintain that shame is likely a key mechanism that undergirds socialization processes related to inclusion and exclusion within engineering programs. Therefore, we have organized this study to unpack both the individual, psychological experience of shame in the context of engineering education as well as the socio-cultural landscape in which these experiences occur. The paper summarizes the preliminary findings of our study of psychological patterns of shame in engineering and describes the next steps of the overall investigation.more » « less
The engineering education discourse increasingly recognizes the role of empathy in preparing students for 21st century challenges. This pedagogical and theoretical interest is not supported by an empirical understanding of the role empathy plays in students' professional formation.
This study investigated how undergraduate engineering students made sense of empathy during a series of empathic communication modules as part of a mechanical engineering design course.
Post‐module reflections from 146 students were collected in two iterations of the course. The data were qualitatively analyzed using social phenomenology to focus on participants' meaning making in the context of their overall experiences. A model of empathy as interrelated skills, orientations, and ways of being theoretically framed the data gathering and analysis.
Three analytic categories structured the significant variation in students' meaning making. (a) Relationships with Others captured students' understandings of the relationship with and role of others along the three dimensions of Distance, Difference, and Power. (b) The Act of Learning identified varying degrees of resonance or disconnect between students' expectations of engineering learning and the forms of learning encountered in the modules. (c) Empathy as a Conceptual Object described the variation of students' own understandings of the nature and function of empathy in the context of their engineering learning.
The experiential significance of engaging with empathy makes visible and pedagogically accessible students' value orientations that frame their relationships toward others and their self‐understanding as engineers, thus providing potential new avenues for research and education to engage less tangible facets of engineering formation.
Although prior research has provided robust descriptions of engineering students' identity development, a gap in the literature exists related to students' emotional experiences of shame, which undergird the socially constructed expectations of their professional formation.
We examined the lived experiences of professional shame among White male engineering students in the United States. We conceptualize professional shame to be a painful emotional state that occurs when one perceives they have failed to meet socially constructed expectations or standards that are relevant to their identity in a professional domain.
We conducted unstructured interviews with nine White male engineering students from both a research‐focused institution and a teaching‐focused institution. We used interpretative phenomenological analysis to examine the interview transcripts.
The findings demonstrated four themes related to how participants experienced professional shame. First, they negotiated their global, or holistic, identities in the engineering domain. Second, they experienced threats to their identities within professional contexts. Third, participants responded to threats in ways that gave prominence to the standards they perceived themselves to have failed. Finally, they repaired their identities through reframing shame experiences and seeking social connection.
The findings demonstrate that the professional shame phenomenon is interwoven with professional identity development. In experiencing professional shame, White male students might reproduce the shame experience for themselves and others. This finding has important implications for the standards against which members from underrepresented groups may compare themselves and provides insight into the social construction of engineering cultures by dominant groups.