Research Papers

Document Type

Conference Paper


The gap between engineering education and practice has been subject to considerable research attention. We look at studies of engineering practice with a view to informing education. Our interest is in identifying technical knowledge and how it is used in practice, as well as what kind of technical knowledge is used but not taught. This paper seeks to systematically review the existing literature on engineering practice, drawing from and adding to a prior data set developed by Andrea Mazzurco and colleagues, who found that there was a gap in studies of specialised technical knowledge in practice. Investigating their dataset we found that rather than being absent, studies of practice have tended to background knowledge, by focusing on professional skills and attributes and obscuring the role of specialised technical engineering knowledge. In engineering education and practice, surveys of ‘what graduates need’ tend to separate out graduate attributes from specialised engineering knowledge; however, detailed, qualitative studies show the extent to which these graduate attributes are intertwined with specialised knowledge. This paper focuses on research studies that include an observational component. In total, 23 papers were analysed with a view to answering the research question: what do observational studies of engineering practice tell us about specialised engineering knowledge? We examine how knowledge was constructed by the authors, usually as socially mediated and embodied; but also at how knowledge was used by participants, generally as foundational to reasoning but in tacit ways.


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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.