Becoming an engineer: Toward a three dimensional view of engineering learning

Reed Stevens*, Kevin O'connor, Lari Garrison, Andrew Jocuns, Daniel M. Amos

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

353 Scopus citations


In this paper we develop an analytical framework we refer to as "Becoming an Engineer" that focuses upon changes occurring over time as students traverse their undergraduate educations in engineering. This analytical framework involves three related dimensions that we track over time: disciplinary knowledge, identification, and navigation. Our analysis illustrates how these three dimensions enable us to understand how students become, or do not become, engineers by examining how these three interrelated dimensions unfold over time. This study is based on longitudinal ethnographic data from which we have developed "person-centered ethnographies" focused on individual students' pathways through engineering. We present comparative analysis, spanning four schools and four years. We also present person-centered ethnographic case studies that illustrate how our conceptual dimensions interrelate. Our discussion draws some educational implications from our analysis and proposes further lines of research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-368
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Engineering Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2008


  • Ethnography
  • Learning
  • Student experience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Engineering


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