What’s your purpose? Redefining the being and becoming of future engineers through professional purpose

Jacqueline Dohaney, Llewelyn Mann, Alicen Coddington

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Context: there are a multitude of ways to support learners in self-development and their journey in being and becoming (e.g., Dall’Alba 2009) engineers. The Engineering Practice Academy is using a new construct called professional purpose. Professional Purpose is a mindset and mechanism for the development and articulation of an individual’s career aspirations and is conceptually built from the construct of ‘purpose in life’ where individuals actively build meaningful life aims (e.g., Bronk 2011; Bronk and Mangan, 2016). In practice, we ask learners to write a descriptive statement on who they will be, personally and professionally, as future engineers (>5 years) at the commencement of their degree. They revisited this statement on a quarterly basis and updated it when their values and aspirations change. An advantage to this mechanism is that we can help learners reflect on all that they are-their whole-self–rather than a historically and socially pre-defined professional identity and call on them to diversify their vision of themselves and all engineers. Purpose: the purpose of this study was to characterise the first-year learners’ description of themselves as a future engineer. Approach: this paper reports on first year students (n=2 4) personal and professional goals emerging from conventional thematic analysis of a series of written statements. It is snapshot and baseline at the start of a semi-longitudinal qualitative study to understand the being and becoming of future engineering professionals within our course. Results: Analysis of the statements revealed that the majority of students included a highly unique and wide range of aspired goals, outcomes, capabilities and attributes with a preference towards the personal and professional aspects. Across the cohort, learners focused on nonconventional areas such as lifestyle, travel, wellbeing, society and family as well as impacts to society and community (noted in Bronk 2011) and include generic, and somewhat idealised, aspirational statements like ‘work hard’ and ‘achieve my goals’. There is a noticeable lack of focus on technical, design and analytical skills, on engineering, more broadly, and within a specialist engineering sector of interest. Conclusions: through this process, individuals can use their professional purpose to engage in personally meaningful goals and in supporting them motivationally through their journey in the degree and onwards into their career. At a fundamental level, this allows us to know who the learners are, as people and professionals. At a higher level, it allows us to structure the degree program around the aspirations and capabilities that our cohort possess–creating a unique learning experience supporting them as individuals and supporting future engineers to push the boundaries of what engineering is.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 12 Dec 2018
Event29th Australasian Association for Engineering Education Conference (AAEE 2018): The Future Engineer: Accounting for Diversity - Hamilton, New Zealand
Duration: 9 Dec 201812 Dec 2018

Conference

Conference29th Australasian Association for Engineering Education Conference (AAEE 2018): The Future Engineer: Accounting for Diversity
Country/TerritoryNew Zealand
CityHamilton
Period9/12/1812/12/18

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • professional purpose
  • engineering identities
  • being and becoming
  • aspirations
  • career identity

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