Engineering Education Research: Discipline, Community, or Field?


  • Brent K. Jesiek,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Engineering Education Purdue University
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    • Brent K. Jesiek is assistant professor in Engineering Education and Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University. Dr. Jesiek holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Michigan Tech and M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Science and Technology Studies from Virginia Tech. He is the former manager of Virginia Tech's Center for Digital Discourse and Culture. His research is focused on studying the social, historical, global, and epistemological dimensions of engineering and computing, with particular emphasis on subjects related to computer engineering, engineering education, and educational technology.

  • Lynita K. Newswander,

    Corresponding author
    1. School of Public and International Affairs Virginia Tech
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    • Lynita K. Newswander is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Public and International Affairs at Virginia Tech. She also holds master's degrees in English and Political Science from Virginia Tech. Her current research interests are interdisciplinary and reside at the intersection of theory and the empirical aesthetic.

  • Maura Borrego

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Engineering Education Virginia Tech
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    • Maura Borrego is an assistant professor of Engineering Education at Virginia Tech. Dr. Borrego holds an M.S. and Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Stanford University. Her current research interests center around interdisciplinary collaboration in engineering and engineering education, including studies of the collaborative relationships between engineers and education researchers. She was recently awarded a CAREER grant from NSF to study interdisciplinarity in engineering graduate programs nationwide.

School of Engineering Education, Purdue University, Armstrong Hall, 701 West Stadium Avenue, West Lafayette, IN 47907; telephone (+1) 765.496.1531; e-mail:

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Engineering education research has experienced a notable scale-up in recent years through the development of departments and degree programs, high-profile publication outlets, research agendas, and meetings. We begin by reviewing these developments, contextualizing them historically, and clarifying some relevant terminology. We then use observational data collected at the 2007 inaugural International Conference on Research in Engineering Education (ICREE) to examine how engineering education is variously conceptualized as a discipline, community of practice, and/or field. We also examine how ICREE participants engaged with questions about the infrastructure and major goals of engineering education research. Our data reveals both an overall lack of clarity and continued sense of ambiguity about the identity and status of engineering education research. We conclude by recommending that participants and stakeholders work to clarify the goals and objectives of engineering education research, especially to inform the continued development of the field's identity and supporting infrastructures.