The challenges and affordances of engineering identity as an analytic lens

Christine Allison Gray, Robin G Tuchscherer, Ron Gray

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


In this theory paper, we seek to review recent scholarship on the construct of engineering identity to help identify the challenges and affordances of its use in engineering education research. The growing interest in expanding the body of professional engineers has sparked new interest in engineering identity. We begin with a survey of early and contemporary identity studies before focusing on studies of identity in science and, finally, engineering. We posit that engineering offers a unique lens for viewing identity, as it is a context that comes with a distinctive set of historical norms, values, and beliefs. A body of research has grown in attempts to understand what professional identity means for engineering students, how it forms, and to develop measures for studying the construct in this particular context. Engineers are trained to be empirical and solution-focused. Aligned with this orientation, scholars in engineering identity tend to ground their work in well-defined frameworks that include a collection of traits developed within the context. Although this perspective provides easily definable lenses for analyzing identity, more research is needed into the factors that influence students' identity development - particularly those that are within the control of engineering educators. This paper will provide a review of an engineering identity study, explore the challenges and affordances inherent in this work, and discuss the practical implications for engineering educators and scholars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 23 2018
Event125th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Salt Lake City, United States
Duration: Jun 23 2018Dec 27 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Engineering


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