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Open Access Developing a Navy Workforce Program: An Interactional Ethnographic Analysis

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A survey of the literature reveals that, to maintain its competitive edge, the U. S. needs to recruit more science, technology, engineering, and mathetmatics students and train them in innovation and, above all, engage the participation of under-represented groups. This paper presents an analysis of a workforce learning program, the Navy Workforce Program (NWP), that is aimed at engaging participants in innovation through Navy engineering design projects. An embedded interactional ethnographic logic-of-inquiry approach was used to explore what counts as engineering learning by student participants. The analyses presented here provide a series of grounded insights into the development of the program, which are based on collaborative interactions among all participating stakeholders, including program coordinators, naval-base professionals, university researchers, and all student participants. We show how an analysis of student actions and a conversation of process are used to generate data for research and for understanding students' ways of thinking. By tracing the initial roots of program artifacts, we were able to see direct links from the NWP program components and learning opportunities to student group practices. More specifically, the flip chart brainstorming and decision-making process of one of the student teams—the Ladder Team—gave direct evidence of their integration and documentation of their thinking as engineers from a synthesis of the orientation information, innovation course, and entrepreneurial concepts. These insights produce empirical evidence needed to understand how the program supported the development of student participants in innovation thinking and decision-making.

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Keywords: INNOVATION EDUCATION; INTERACTIONAL ETHNOGRAPHY; WORKFORCE LEARNING

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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