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ERIC Number: EJ1178027
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 15
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-1029-8457
Development of an Engineering Identity: Personal Discovery of Classroom Mathematics in 'Real Engineering'
Craig, Tracy S.
African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, v14 n2 p56-70 2010
This article reports on an activity in a first-year engineering mathematics class designed to strengthen students' personal identities as novice engineers. The literature on identity suggests that students are more likely to be retained in an engineering degree programme if they develop an identity as an engineer and that development of such an identity is encouraged and supported if students can see the relevance of their studies to future studies or their future career. The mathematics encountered at a first-year level is often of an unrealistic nature due to its largely algebraic content as well as to the fact that real-world engineering problems are often intractable without using more advanced mathematics than is accessible in a first-year course. The activity described in this article endeavoured to build empirically on the theoretical issues raised in the literature by asking "Can students identify the presence of classroom mathematics in real-world engineering texts and does this recognition encourage the development of identity as a novice engineer?" Sixty-six students studying first-year engineering mathematics in an academic development programme at a South African university took part in the activity. Data consisted of the students' written assignments and their responses to a Likert-style questionnaire. The written assignments were graded on the strength of their alignment with the task's mathematical requirements. Specifically within the course topic of "Applications of Differentiation," the students were required to use resources from the library and the internet to find examples in real-world engineering where differentiation is used for practical purposes. The examples that the students investigated were necessarily expressed in the discourse of engineering, yet drew on mathematics the students had recently encountered in the classroom. This evident trajectory of knowledge from pure classroom practice to real-world engineering use allowed the students ready access to the discourse of engineering and ideally fostered development of identity as an active novice participant in the world of real engineering. A minority of students did not succeed in the task requirements, but the bulk of the students found the task interesting and informative. Several students expressed surprise and pleasure that they were able to understand what they were reading, revealing to them that they were already participants in the engineering community with some fluency in the discourse.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: South Africa
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A