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Using Positioning Theory to Study the Role of Emotions in Engineering Problem Solving: Methodological Issues and Recommendations for Future Research
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Science and Mathematics Education. (UmSER)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9667-2044
Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden.
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Science and Mathematics Education.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3614-1692
2021 (English)In: Studies in Engineering Education, ISSN 2690-5450, Vol. 2, no 1, p. 53-79Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: Engineering is often portrayed as a purely rational discipline, where emotions are considered irrelevant to problem solving. Also, in-depth research on emotions in engineering education is scarce, and most of the existing studies take their theoretical departure in individual and cognitivist perspectives. There is thus a need for emotion research from social interactionist perspectives—such as positioning theory.

Purpose: This methodological paper aims to (1) develop an analytical framework for studying emotions through positioning theory and multimodal analysis, (2) illustrate its use in engineering education research, and (3) discuss methodological issues and offer recommendations for this type of research in engineering education.

Method: To develop the analytical framework, we engaged with philosophical and empirical literature on positioning theory and emotions, as well as empirical data from a pilot study on engineering students’ emotional positioning in individual, video-recorded interviews about a wicked sustainability problem. We illustrate the application of the framework and multimodal analysis using three extracts from that data. In line with positioning theory, the analysis focuses on how emotional moral orders are activated and negotiated. Three units of analysis are used: emotion acts, emotional storylines, and emotional positions.

Results: The analysis shows how a dominant storyline of engineering as purely rational can be reconstructed, but also how a competing storyline of emotions as important for engineering can be constructed, sometimes simultaneously. These findings disrupt simplified narratives about engineers as unemotional and show that there are multiple ways of engaging with emotions in engineering problem solving.

Conclusions: We conclude that positioning theory holds much potential for exploring a wide range of social interactional phenomena in engineering education. More research is needed to explore additional types, levels, and orders of emotional positioning to further nuance our understanding of the role of emotions in engineering education.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2021. Vol. 2, no 1, p. 53-79
Keywords [en]
positioning theory, moral orders, emotions, multimodal analysis, sustainability, wicked problems
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
educational leadership
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-187679DOI: 10.21061/see.50OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-187679DiVA, id: diva2:1595239
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2020-03907Available from: 2021-09-17 Created: 2021-09-17 Last updated: 2021-09-17Bibliographically approved

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Lönngren, JohannaBerge, Maria

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