N. Fila, Ş. Purzer
Jun 24, 2017
Journal name not available for this finding
Innovation is a key competency in engineering. Researchers and educators have long explored the processes, attributes, and environments of innovators with an aim to support engineering students in developing the competencies necessary to innovate. Yet, innovation is a complex phenomenon with many potential paths. In a recent phenomenographic study of engineering students, we found eight distinct ways of experiencing innovation. While these different ways of experiencing innovation were not necessarily better or worse, they could be compared in terms of their comprehensiveness, especially with respect to the innovation process and the issues (e.g., technical, user, or business) that drove innovation. In this study, we performed a two-phase qualitative analysis to understand how individual characteristics of the engineering students and contextual characteristics of the engineering projects in which they encountered innovation intersected to influence them to experience innovation in one of the eight categories described in the earlier study. In the first phase, we used content analysis to catalog distinct individual and project characteristics and explore similarities among participants in each of the eight categories. In the second phase, we used thematic analysis to describe, at a more general level, how individual participants came to experience innovation in more comprehensive ways. Content analysis showed that individuals may be drawn to specific categories due to nuanced connections between individual and project characteristics, while thematic analysis demonstrated three general pathways to more comprehensive categories, including (1) comprehensiveness of the innovation project experience, (2) connections between project goals and an individuals’ interests and values, and (3) acute or persistent tensions between current perspectives and innovation experiences. We discuss these results in depth and describe implications for teaching and learning engineering innovation.