2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

The benefits of ethnographic research in exploring new intervention in STEM higher education programs

Presented at Qualitative Research Methods

This study describes an initial cycle of inquiry within a multi-year research initiative for a new Naval Workforce Program (NWP) designed to increase the number of underrepresented individuals (veterans and minorities) in STEM professional contexts, particularly within the context of naval engineering and design.

The research practices within the NWP follow a logic of inquiry that is grounded in Interactional Ethnography (IE) and is based on interactions and collaborative work among all participating stakeholders, including program coordinators, naval-base professionals, university researchers, and all student participants. These lines of inquiry are shaped by observed stakeholder experiences, perspectives, and attitudes that are systematically documented via recorded exchanges, discussions, individual and collaborative work products, and field notes. We argue that such ethnographic research is culturally responsive to the underrepresented students, with particular interest in increasing the potential for meeting the goals of increasing the number of veteran individuals in STEM professional contexts. Our telling case focuses on a discovery that emerged from discussion with a group of participants who are veterans; several members comment on how perceptions about public views of veterans can be a hindrance in pursuing civil (non-military, non-combat) careers in STEM. Our exploration of this interaction doubly serves as an illustration of the inquiry process and insight derived from IE in action.

  1. Prof. Diana Jaleh Arya University of California, Santa Barbara [biography]
  2. Ms. Noreen Balos University of California, Santa Barbara [biography]
  3. Dr. Maria Teresa Napoli University of California, Santa Barbara [biography]
  4. Dr. Elizabeth Sciaky University of California, Santa Barbara [biography]
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