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A Comparison of Student Design Activity Preferences Before and After a Design-Based Wilderness Education Experience

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Research on Design Learning

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Christopher R. Saulnier Massachusetts Institute of Technology Orcid 16x16

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Chris Saulnier holds an undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering and a masters in Technology and Policy. He has instructed wilderness education programs with Outward Bound Canada. He is currently a PhD student studying Engineering Education and Design as a member of the MIT-SUTD Collaboration Office, Cambridge, MA (e-mail:

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Aikaterini (Katerina) Bagiati P.E. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Aikaterini (Katerina) Bagiati, Ph.D.: After graduating with a Diploma in Electrical and Computers Engineering and a Masters degree in Advanced Digital Communication Systems from Aristotle University in Thessaloniki, Greece, Katerina Bagiati was in 2008 one of the first graduate students to join the pioneer School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. In 2011 she acquired her Doctorate in Engineering Education, followed by a post-doctoral associate appointment within the MIT-SUTD Collaboration at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and she is currently a research scientist working at the MIT Scheller Teacher Education Program in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the MIT Office of Digital Learning. She is actively involved in the development and the assessment related to MIT’s national and international educational projects and collaborations, and conducts research at the K12 and higher education levels, in the efficacy of innovative learning mechanisms and pedagogical approaches used in all initiatives mentioned above. Furthermore she collaborates with the team of engineers working on MIT’s edX platform and on the development of software modules that support teaching and learning. Dr. Bagiati’s research interests are in the areas of early engineering, STEM curriculum development and teacher training, and Design Based Learning

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John G. Brisson II Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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In 2010 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) entered into a collaboration agreement with the government of Singapore to found the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). The MIT-SUTD Collaboration broadly consists of curriculum development, faculty training, collaborative research, and the development of student culture. One activity focused on the development of student culture is the Global Leadership Program (GLP), a ten-week academic cultural exchange that takes place on and around MIT’s campus. GLP brings approximately 30 students from SUTD to MIT to experience MIT’s academic environment. As part of this program, the SUTD students, alongside 5 MIT students, engage in experiences that assist with the development of leadership and engineering skills.

In 2014 a component was introduced to GLP that combined the pedagogical approaches of design-based learning and wilderness education to create a novel learning environment for engineering and architecture students. This curriculum was developed to address the development of design thinking, engineering science, and leadership skills. The design-based wilderness education curriculum consists of classroom and lab activities implemented on the MIT campus, followed by a wilderness expedition. Initial investigation indicated that the design-based wilderness education curriculum resulted in self-reported increases in student leadership capacity and potentially beneficial changes to students design-thinking.

This research paper examines pre- and post- assessments given to participants immediately before and after participating in the design-based wilderness education component of the 2015 GLP. The assessment consisted of an inventory of 23 activities commonly associated with the engineering design process; students were asked to identify the six most important and the six least important design activities. This paper explores the differences identified between the pre- and post assessment results and these differences are associated with pedagogical decisions made in the creation of the program. The potential implications of design-based wilderness education as a pedagogy for design education are further explored.

Saulnier, C. R., & Bagiati, A. K., & Brisson, J. G. (2016, June), A Comparison of Student Design Activity Preferences Before and After a Design-Based Wilderness Education Experience Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26289

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