Myers, Tianna (2019) Exploring Students’ Experiences of Studying Engineering in Higher Education. Masters thesis, University of Huddersfield.

There is a paucity of literature in engineering education which examines students’ experiences through the context in which they study. Previous literature tends to explore isolated concepts within students’ experiences, be these attrition rates or the hostile climate of the discipline. However, this fails to gain a full understanding of student’s experiences, their trajectories and the practices they negotiate in order to succeed in their studies. Much of the research in engineering education is also under theorised and draws upon a student deficit discourse. However, the following research makes the argument that we need to move away from a model which considers learning to reside within the individual and take a sociocultural stance in exploring teaching and learning. In order to explore individual’s experiences in such way, data which captures the interaction of person, process and context needs to be gathered. The best method in order to gather data which explores experiences in such way is an ethnography. The following research utilised the ethnographic method to explore the experiences of taught engineering students in higher education. A sociocultural approach to teaching and learning was taken, drawing upon the work of Vygotsky, Lave and Wenger and Bronfenbrenner to understand the practices which influence students’ experiences. The study explored and analysed student’s trajectories to studying engineering, the practices they negotiated in engineering HE and the influence of macro system factors such as the masculine culture on the discipline. The data sources included observation, informal conversation and semi-structured interviews. Theoretical thematic analysis was undertaken. The analysis considers factors which both enable and disable successful participation and engagement in engineering education. The key findings indicate that student’s identities must shift to conform to the monolithic identity which is set and perpetuated in the engineering education community of practice. A recommendation is made for critical examination of the proximal and distal processes, with a view of enabling successful participation, particularly increasing wider participation. I argue the culture of engineering and the way this is implemented into education needs to be addressed to enable inclusivity by addressing subject specialist support, shifting the competitive climate to be more collaborative and loosening the restrictive criteria which creates a structured tribe in the discipline.

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