BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO THE PEOPLE WHO MATTER?: COMMUNITY PARTNER MEANING MAKING IN ENGINEERING ENGAGEMENT PROGRAMS
Engineering engagement programs use service learning and community engagement pedagogies that require a real-world situated problem in which the community partners who experience those problems are integral to those spaces. Despite community partners being integral to engineering engagement programs, research on community partner perspectives is vastly unrepresented in literature Therefore, the goal of this work is to investigate engineering engagement programs from the perspective of the community partners by answering the research question: what meaning do community partners make of their experience in engineering engagement programs? This study describes a qualitative research inquiry in which interviews with three community partners from three different engineering engagement programs were conducted and analyzed for community partner meaning. Using a framework developed by Zittoun and Brinkmann for meaning making, this study presented several themes associated with pragmatic, semantic, and existential meanings made by community partners within this study (2012).
Findings from this study suggest implications for expansions of existing frameworks of constituents and components of engineering engagement programs, as well as potential opportunities to more deeply engaging community partners the assessment of student contributions and trajectories as a function of participation in EEPs. Additionally, findings from this study suggest an opportunity to investigate communication and thinking between students and community partners to better support the experience of the community partner (and potentially, the learning of the students). Lastly, findings from this study suggest that participation in EEPs presents the opportunity for community partners to learn by doing which can be more deeply investigated to begin addressing the gap in the literature associated with community partners in research on engineering engagement spaces.