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An Exploratory Study of Power Dynamics and Feedback in Design Reviews

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Student Feedback and Assessment in Design

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Mitch Cieminski Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering Orcid 16x16

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Mitchell J. Cieminski was born in Fontana, CA in 1995 and grew up in Greeley, CO. He received a B.S. in electrical and computer engineering from Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, MA in May 2017, and currently studies science and technology studies at Rennselaer Polytechnic Institute. In 2014, he worked at Insper University in São Paulo, Brazil as a Junior Partner and visiting student to their developing engineering program. His research interests include community education and the relationship between technology and society. Mr. Cieminski is a member of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). He has previously served as President of Olin College’s SWE chapter.

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Alexandra Coso Strong Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering Orcid 16x16

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Alexandra Coso Strong is an assistant professor of systems design and engineering at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. Prior to starting a faculty position at Olin, she was a Postdoctoral Fellow at Georgia Tech’s Center for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning. She completed her Ph.D. in 2014 in Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Tech. Alexandra received her B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from MIT and her M.S. in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia. Her research interests include engineering design education (especially in regards to the design of complex systems), student preparation for post-graduation careers, approaches for supporting education research-to-practice.

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A key event in many engineering and design learning environments is the design review, in which students present project work to solicit feedback from reviewers like instructors, peers, and outside visitors. Previous research on design reviews demonstrates how feedback affects student growth and task achievement. However, there is limited research within engineering education that examines the relationship between feedback and other features of a design review. One such feature is the power dynamics between the student and the instructor, which may be germane to the review outcome. The purpose of this exploratory study is to investigate the extent to which the power dynamics within the design review are related to the design review feedback. Using previously-collected video recordings of design reviews in an undergraduate mechanical engineering design course and an undergraduate industrial design course, an in-depth exploration of two formative design reviews (one from each course) was conducted. Open coding methodologies were applied to examine power structures and to capture the critical incidents related to power dynamics, while existing classification schemes were used to identify the types of feedback that occur within and around these incidents. Some feedback types were found to be commonly used by instructors to disrupt design reviews. Furthermore, the findings suggest that students have a relatively restricted set of approaches to interact with the reviewers in design reviews, and that, even in more-equitable reviews, students can have limited effect in achieving their discursive goals. Overall, the results of this exploratory research study can be used to provide educators with an increased awareness of the relationships among feedback, power dynamics, and project contexts and to support future research about power dynamics within design learning environments.

Cieminski, M., & Strong, A. C. (2017, June), An Exploratory Study of Power Dynamics and Feedback in Design Reviews Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27564

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