Learning as acquiring a discursive identity through participation in a community: improving student learning in engineering education

In this paper, we propose that learning in engineering involves taking on the discourse of an engineering community, which is intimately bound up with the identity of being a member of that community. This leads to the notion of discursive identity, which emphasises that students' identities are constituted through engaging in discourse. This view of learning implies that success in engineering studies needs to be defined with particular reference to the sorts of identities that students develop and how these relate to identities in the world of work. In order to achieve successful learning in engineering, we need to recognise the multiple identities held by our students, provide an authentic range of engineering-related activities through which students can develop engineering identities and make more explicit key aspects of the discourse of engineering of which lecturers are tacitly aware. We include three vignettes to illustrate how some of the authors of this paper (from across three different institutions) have applied this perspective of learning in their teaching practice.

This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in African Journal of Research in Mathematics Science and Technology Education on 2009, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/03043790902989457.