Licentiate thesis 2014-004

The Role of Students' Identity Development in Higher Education in Computing

Anne-Kathrin Peters

25 April 2014


Higher Education Research in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) indicates that students are not well supported in the process of integrating their educational experience with their perception of who they are and want to become. This is associated with drop-out and also has consequences for student learning. Here, learning is defined in the broad sense of personal and professional development.

This thesis presents results from a research project that explores students' identity development during their first three years of studies. The analysis and results build on interview and essay data collected during a longitudinal study of students in two study programmes at Uppsala University, Computer and Information Engineering (IT) and Computer Science (CS). The main body of data analysed for this thesis was collected from the students at the beginning and end of their first study year.

A research framework to study identity has been developed. The notion of identity used in this work has been inspired by Lave and Wenger's social theory of learning, and theory of situated learning. Identity, in this work, refers to students' histories of experiences with a focus on how they negotiate meaning within the discipline of CS/IT.

The results describe aspects of CS/IT students' identities and provide a basis from which to discuss the implications of identity for learning and education, as well as to reason about how identity development can be supported in CS/IT education.

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