Engineering faculty drawing the line: A taxonomy of boundary work in academic engineering

  • Pawley A
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Abstract

In this paper, I import the conceptual tool of boundary work from other disciplines to the study of academic engineers and I expand on existing research on boundary work based on interviews from 10 engineering faculty members at a research-oriented university. Analyzing participants’ interview responses for language associated with boundary metaphors yields a rich lexicon of terms related to the complicated characterization and categorization of ideas and values that they associate with engineering. Through this analysis, I introduce the concept of boundary markers as conceptual objects that delineate the edge of a boundary. I define and describe a taxonomy of the different sorts of boundary work participants do as recognition, mapping, reproduction, and resistance. I argue that boundaries have characteristics of continuity, mobility, and functionality. This paper can enhance our understanding of academic engineering and engineering education by making visible – via a cognitive tool developed from their colleagues’ language – academic engineers’ own boundary work as they contest or reproduce boundaries of the profession and discipline of engineering.

Author-supplied keywords

  • boundary markers
  • boundary taxonomy
  • boundary work
  • engineering faculty members

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