Design Experiences, Engineering Identity, and Belongingness in Early Career Electrical and Computer Engineering Students

Jacqueline Rohde, Lisa Musselman, Brianna Benedict, Dina Verdín, Allison Godwin, Adam Kirn, Lisa Benson, Geoff Potvin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Contribution: This paper found that design experiences can foster engineering identity and belongingness for early career electrical and computer engineering students. Students had different interpretations of what it meant to be an engineer (identity) and their belongingness in engineering. This paper provides novel insights into how students may be developing identities and belongingness in engineering, both critical for student retention and success. Background: Design experiences are crucial for engineering students, both for developing academic competencies and allowing students to see how they can become engineers. Existing literature has mixed results with respect to the influence of team-based design experiences on engineering identity and belongingness. Research Questions: 1) How do design experiences influence early career electrical and computer engineering students' identification and belongingness in engineering? and 2) How do these students describe what it means to identify as an engineer and belong in engineering? Methodology: The beliefs of electrical and computer engineering students were examined using mixed methods to understand the intersection of design experiences, engineering identity, and belongingness. Findings: Students interpreted their engineering identity and belongingness differently, particularly, with respect to how design experiences can shape these attitudes. Whereas students interpreted engineering identity through their performance and interest in authentic engineering tasks, they interpreted belongingness as a means of comparing themselves to their peers. The findings have implications for engineering education researchers, and design instructors, to foster ways of being and belonging in engineering.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8713555
Pages (from-to)165-172
Number of pages8
JournalIEEE Transactions on Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Belongingness
  • design
  • electrical engineering
  • engineering identity
  • identity
  • mixed methods research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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