How do engineering students build their understanding of their role?
This qualitative research explored how 2nd and 3rd year engineering students build their understanding of their role as engineers. A 2-day workshop was created to examine the impact of several factors (perspectives/differences between people, communication, team and organisational dynamics, and project management), that were believed to be fundamental to this understanding. Combined phenomenographic and experimental frameworks guided the research design and qualitative research methods were used to collect and analyse students’ opinion data. 32 volunteer engineering students participated (13 second year, 19 third year). The research identified three key findings: 1. A student’s understanding of their role as an engineer progresses from a discipline/siloed level to holistic/system thinking level. 2. An understanding of workplace perspectives combined with organisational structure and dynamics (which showed the interconnectedness of the workplace and the importance of interpersonal skills and teamwork) was the most influential factor in their progression to the Holistic level. 3. Providing a holistic overview of a complete project that demonstrated perspective/ design thinking as well as organisational dynamics was an important pedagogical approach in building students understanding of their role as engineers.