Exploring I-poems to Explore the Identity of Underrepresented Engineering Student Makers

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This Work in Progress Paper presents an NSF funded study focused on understanding the role that makerspaces play in the identity development of engineering students from underrepresented groups (URGs). In recent years, makerspaces have become a popular addition to universities, with an implicit assumption that makerspaces will increase students choosing to major in STEM disciplines. The research question that guided this work is the following: How well do I-poems and thematic analysis help us uncover complex and nuanced understandings of the identities of engineering students and makers who are from URGs? For this paper, we share a passage from an interview and conduct an analysis of that passage using the I-poem analytic strategy and thematic analysis. In particular, we explore the possibilities inherent in using these analytic approaches to understand identity development. We discuss how the I-poem was effective in developing a more complex and nuanced understanding of the identity development of engineering student makers. Further implications of this novel approach are that Ipoems show promise to resonate better with the reader and position the researcher and reader as ‘standing alongside’ the participant, instead of a more traditional approach of ‘gazing at’ our participants.