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Open Access Invention Education and the Developing Nature Of High School Students' Construction Of an "inventor" Identity

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This article explores the development of high school students' identities as inventors at the end of their participation in the national InvenTeams™ invention education initiative sponsored by the Lemelson-MIT Program. Our study was guided by an interactional ethnographic perspective through which we sought to understand students' emic perspectives as to why they did or did not see themselves as inventors after working as inventors across the school year. Analyses focused on student responses to a self-descriptor question on the end-of-the-year survey taken by 196 students and on semi-structured interview dialogues about identity with three male and three female InvenTeams participants. Multiple analytic passes through survey and interview data revealed that while only three of the six students (two women and one man) self-identified as inventors on the survey, all six were in the process of constructing their identities as leaders, creators, innovators, engineers, and inventors. Domain analyses of student interview responses also made visible that home, school, and out-of-school contexts had the potential to influence student identity choices. The variety of student identity choices and explanations of their self-identification with the term "inventor" make visible the possibility that invention—and self-appellation as an inventor—may be accessible to more youth from diverse backgrounds if young people have access to environments rich in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics during high school and are provided multiple opportunities to engage with their communities as inventors.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2019

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  • Technology and Innovation, edited and published by the National Academy of Inventors, is a forum for presenting information encompassing the entire field of applied sciences, with a focus on transformative technology and academic innovation. Regular features of T&I include commentaries contributed by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and in-depth profiles of Fellows of the National Academy of Inventors in every issue.

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