Research Initiation: Exploring Enculturation of Engineering Students in the First-Year Engineering Program Grant uri icon


  • The professional formation of engineers is a phenomenon of global interest. First-year engineering programs are being scrutinized and reevaluated for the purpose of attracting, retaining, and graduating an increased and diverse new generation of engineers. This research initiation project explores the enculturation of engineering students to the engineering profession during the first-year foundational engineering courses. Engineering enculturation is defined as the process by which a student learns the traditional content of an engineering culture and assimilates engineering practices and values. This work constitutes an analysis of a standard first-year engineering curriculum seen as an enculturation experience. The goal is to identify the extent to which the first-year engineering courses and interventions successfully welcome diverse students to the culture of the engineering profession. As it is the case for other professions with enculturation precedents (i.e. medicine and law), results will provide the foundation from which content, activities and programs can be more attuned to the engineering practice. The impacts of these results include the advancement in the knowledge of the professional formation of engineers through a cycle of theory of acculturation and improvements to the practice of the first-year engineering curriculum. Such impacts are transferable to all engineering years and specializations.Taking advantage of the enculturation and acculturation advances of the social sciences, enculturation outcome factors have been identified (e.g. algorithmic thinking, problem solving, engineering design, etc.). This research seeks to advance the understanding of these enculturation outcome factors in engineering, approaching them from a diverse population perspective. The guiding research questions of this project are: (a) How do foundational engineering courses facilitate enculturation of first-year engineering students in terms of their performance in engineering enculturation outcome factors? (b) Among the engineering enculturation factors, which are perceived by students to be the easiest and/or the most challenging/difficult to achieve? (c) How do students'' perceptions of enculturation to be an engineer change over time? The project takes into consideration subgroup differences in terms of gender, ethnicity, residency (domestic vs. international) and admission type (first time in college). A two year mixed-method research plan is proposed via students'' performance scores and focus groups, and the associated results include an Engineering Enculturation Scale (EES) produced by exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses. The ultimate goal is to improve the professional formation of engineers through the lens of cultural acquisition.

date/time interval

  • 2016 - 2020