Exploring emotional trajectories of engineering students: A narrative research approach

Nadia Kellam, Karen Gerow, Gregory Wilson, Joachim Walther, Joshua Cruz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


As the problems that engineers are framing and solving are becoming more complex, it is becoming critical to develop a more nuanced understanding of learning that encompasses more than separate knowing and includes connected knowing. To better understand connected knowing within engineering students, we explore the role of emotion in engineering education. In particular, we attend to the primary research question, how do emotions underpin the narratives of engineering students? This narrative research project involved conducting interviews with 21 undergraduate engineering students from year one to five in their engineering program and from a diversity of engineering disciplines. Our findings suggest a trajectory of emotions including enjoyment of pre-engineering activities, nervousness about core classes, frustration and discouragement with core classes, and finally an overall satisfaction with the educational experience. Two constructed narratives are included to provide the reader with an individualized, contextual, and complex view of the lived reality of emotional trajectories. As engineering educators, the emotions of our engineering students may prove critical as we are preparing engineering graduates to make decisions and to contribute to some of the world's most pressing problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1726-1740
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2018


  • Connected ways of knowing
  • Emotions
  • Identity formation
  • Narrative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Engineering(all)


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