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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Evolution in engineering dispositions and thinking among culturally diverse students in an undergraduate engineering programme Campbell, Christopher David


This study investigated the evolution in engineering dispositions and thinking among culturally diverse students through their enculturating experiences in team-based engineering design courses in second year electrical and computer engineering. Ethnographic methods (participant observation, semi-structured interviews) were employed to collect data in classrooms, labs, and project rooms over a seven-month period. Five culturally diverse students’ trajectories illustrate the processes and products of the evolution of students’ engineering dispositions and thinking. Five key conditions for students in navigating a shift from traditional to team-based project modes of study were identified: i) being willing to buy into working as part of a team, ii) being willing and able to claim a viable role as an engineer, iii) grappling with competing identities in becoming an engineer, iv) navigating different perspectives on engineering projects, and v) being able to self and co-regulate while under a complex, heavy workload. Cultural, language, and personal factors mediated culturally diverse students’ capacities to satisfy these five conditions. The study offers the following implications for fostering the engineering dispositions and thinking of culturally diverse students: i) explicit and meaningful orientation of students towards team-based project modes of study; ii) fostering of metacognitive awareness and capacity with respect to teamwork processes; iii) harnessing cultural diversity for promoting intercultural skills; iv) focus on English language competencies for functioning in formal, informal, and non-formal academic contexts; v) formative and summative assessment to support this mode of study; vi) self-regulation and socially shared regulation skills for sustaining the success of individuals and teams. The study offers the following implications for employing the theoretical framework in future research: i) greater clarity on the evidence required to identify stages of change; ii) greater clarity on establishing the existence and nature of inner contradictions that drive change; iii) exploration of methodological opportunities and limitations on capturing change in students. This study offers an exemplar for researching evolution and change in students in complex educational contexts.

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