Early Career Faculty Transitions: Negotiating Legitimacy and Seeking Support in Engineering Education
Background: There is limited research exploring the experiences of engineering education scholars transitioning into faculty positions. It is an opportune time to explore these transitions because there is a growing number of scholars identifying with the community, a growing number of doctoral programs being developed, and growing interest in hiring people with engineering education expertise. Purpose/Hypothesis: The purpose of this study is to examine the transitions experienced by our research team of early career engineering education faculty. We describe and systematically analyze our personal experiences to capture the significant events and isolating factors that impacted our transitions. Design/Method: We engaged in a multiphase, multi-method, longitudinal research design grounded in collaborative autoethnography and collaborative inquiry. We leveraged Transition Theory and a multiple case study approach to examine written reflections recorded monthly for two years and ultimately identify the incidents that were critical to defining our experiences within our new roles. Results: While we each held positions in different institutional contexts, we found ourselves negotiating our legitimacy as faculty members, researchers, educators, and administrators. Three themes emerged: 1) understanding the expectations of our roles, 2) establishing our visibility, and 3) fulfilling our own purpose within our institutions. In response to these experiences, we sought support from others within our institutional context and among the engineering education community. Yet, the success of this support-seeking strategy varied across our group. Conclusions: The results of this work signify a need to support early career engineering education scholars in the development of local support networks as well as in their attempts to negotiate their legitimacy in faculty positions. Continued education of administrators and faculty members on the differences between engineering education research and scholarship will be helpful in ensuring that early career engineering education faculty have the support and resources necessary to succeed as researchers and educational change agents.