Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Tamara R. Sumner

Second Advisor

William R. Penuell

Third Advisor

Clayton H. Lewis

Fourth Advisor

Lecia J. Barker

Fifth Advisor

R Benjamin Shapiro


Professional identity, or the connection between individuals and their professional community of practice, begins forming as early as deciding a major for university studies. Development is supported or hindered by situated practices and experiences throughout undergraduate studies and across the transition from university to the workplace. To explore how the academic setting supports or hinders professional identity formation, I expand situated learning theory with stages of concern to directly model identity-related progression of concerns across situated planes of development.

My dissertation research focuses on the Computer Science (CS) capstone experience. The CS capstone course is composed of teams of four to six undergraduate CS students. Each team works directly with an external sponsor to apply software engineering practices toward a project with real-world impact. I conducted interviews with 19 students across two cohorts of the capstone course, and gathered individual and team artifacts from five cohorts of the course. Analysis of this qualitative dataset explores the role of emotions and interest in supporting student engagement and perception of project relevance. These findings culminated in my proposed framework, Multiple Planes of Concern or MPoC, which combines planes of development with stages of concern for examining support for professional identity formation in an academic setting.

This dissertation is organized around three publications over the course of my studies. Outcomes from this dissertation research include the MPoC analytical framework, a conjecture map linking the CS capstone structure to learning theory, broader implications for educational support of professional identity, the CS Capstone Dataset, and the academic artifact consent policy. I advance theory at the intersection of learning sciences and formation of professional identity in CS.