• ethnography;
  • learning;
  • student experience


In this paper we develop an analytical framework we refer to as “Becoming an Engineer” that focuses upon changes occurring over time as students traverse their undergraduate educations in engineering. This analytical framework involves three related dimensions that we track over time: disciplinary knowledge, identification, and navigation. Our analysis illustrates how these three dimensions enable us to understand how students become, or do not become, engineers by examining how these three interrelated dimensions unfold over time. This study is based on longitudinal ethnographic data from which we have developed “person-centered ethnographies” focused on individual students' pathways through engineering. We present comparative analysis, spanning four schools and four years. We also present person-centered ethnographic case studies that illustrate how our conceptual dimensions interrelate. Our discussion draws some educational implications from our analysis and proposes further lines of research.