Learning Ethnographies of New Engineers: A New Approach to Understanding the Transition from School to Work

Principal Investigator: 
Project Overview
Background & Purpose: 

The purpose of this study is to understand the learning experiences and challenges of recently graduated engineering students as they move into their first jobs as professional engineers. Through this lens, we will examine continuities and discontinuities between engineering education and professional engineering work.


Chicago area engineering firms
Denver/Boulder area engineering firms
Northwestern University
University of Colorado, Boulder

Research Design: 

The project uses a longitudinal and comparative research design and will generate evidence that is descriptive [case study, ethnography, observational, phenomenological]. Original data are being collected on graduating undergraduate engineering students, particularly recent graduates who have taken jobs at engineering firms, using diaries [kept by study subjects], observation [personal observation, videography], and survey research [self-completion questionnaire, semi-structured or informal interviews]. Analysis follows grounded theory procedures in general and with regard to video recordings, we will follow methods of Interaction Analysis rooted in traditions of conversation analysis and discourse analysis.


Findings will be posted as they become available.