Engineering leader identity development through reflexive instruction
Tallman, Brett Pierson
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Recent developments in engineering education have prioritized focus on developing leadership as a professional skill. Despite widespread efforts, indications are that the effectiveness of skill-based training is mixed, at best. One approach that has demonstrated promise is using identity as a lens for understanding leadership development. Its impact on engineering leadership is relatively unexplored. This research strives to contribute to the field by measuring leader identity development due to instruction that leverages the lens of identity. In addition, the research explored the influence of engineering leadership construct (i.e., how students think about engineering leadership) and student class year on leader identity. A retrospective post-test measure was used to assess student leadership beliefs. Qualitative data (student essays, for example) supported interpretation of the quantitative data. Results indicate that short-term reflexive instruction (focusing on values, language, reflection, and group work) significantly increases leader identity and changes leadership construct. Moreover, the perceived relationship between engineering and leadership is a significant predictor of leader identity. These findings provide a promising first look at the operationalization of an identity-based approach to engineering leadership development, as well as the relationship between leader identity and one's understanding of engineering leadership.