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An Investigation Of Gaps In Design Process Learning: Is There A Missing Link Between Breadth And Depth?

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Design: Content and Context

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.195.1 - 13.195.14



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Paper Authors


Christine B. Masters Pennsylvania State University

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Christine B. Masters is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Science and Mechanics at The Pennsylvania State University. She earned a PhD from Penn State in 1992. In addition to raising four children with her husband of 20 years, she has been teaching introductory mechanics courses for more than 10 years, training the department graduate teaching assistants for 7 years, coordinating the Engineering Science Honors Program undergraduate advising efforts for 5 years and currently participates in a variety of engineering educational research initiatives.

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Mieke Schuurman Pennsylvania State University

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Mieke K. Schuurman is an engineering education research associate with the Leonhard Center for the Enhancement of Engineering Education in the College of Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University. She received her Masters and PhD in Social & Organizational Psychology from the University of Groningen (The Netherlands). Her work focuses on the enhancement of engineering education. She is a member of ASEE and WEPAN, and actively involved in ASEE's Cooperative Education Division as their Research Chair. She has presented her work at annual conferences of ASEE, WEPAN, and CEIA, and published in the Journal of Engineering Education, the Journal of Language and Social Psychology, the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, the European Journal of Social Psychology, and the European Review of Social Psychology.

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Gül Okudan Pennsylvania State University

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Gül E. Okudan is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Design and Industrial Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University. She received her Ph.D. from University of Missouri-Rolla. Her research interests include product design and product design teams. Her published work appears in journals such as Journal of Mechanical Design, Design Studies, Journal of Engineering Design, Journal of Engineering Education, European Journal of Engineering Education and Technovation. She is a member of ASEE and ASME. She is also a National Research Council-US AFRL Summer Faculty Fellow of the Human Effectiveness Directorate for 2002, 2003 and 2004.

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Samuel T Hunter Pennsylvania State University

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Samuel T. Hunter is an Assistant Professor of Industrial and Psychology at The Pennsylvania State University. He received his PhD from the University of Oklahoma in 2007. His research interests include leadership and innovation management. His work appears in journals such as The Leadership Quarterly, The Journal of Applied Psychology, The Creativity Research Journal, The Journal of Applied Social Psychology, and The Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies. He has just recently published a co-edited volume on Multi-Level Issues in Creativity and Innovation.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

An Investigation of Gaps in Design Process Learning: Is there a Missing Link between Breadth and Depth? Abstract

Teaching ‘design’ is an integral part of undergraduate engineering preparation. Most four year engineering programs include a first year course focused on the engineering design process where students are exposed to the wide range of issues that must be considered with regard to the ‘real life’ activity of designing a product or a process. These courses typically culminate in a team report describing the breadth of information accumulated and considered to arrive at the final recommended design. However, at the first year, students typically lack the knowledge to perform any meaningful analysis on their product or process, but rather focus their activities on the less ‘technical’ but equally important aspects of the design, such as consumer needs, economic impact, safety and design communication.

Once students leave their first year, the curriculum focus typically turns almost exclusively to teaching the analytical tools students will need as working engineers to accomplish innovative design, with far less emphasis on the broad design issues that extend beyond the analysis. Anecdotal evidence shows that students do not connect the newly acquired analytical knowledge with the design process, creating a design learning gap. When students return to a design emphasis in the senior year capstone course, they are expected to bridge this gap by synthesizing the broad engineering design understanding from the first year with their analytical depth gained in the second and third years to produce unique engineering design solutions. Can small but effective changes be made in the second and third year to improve this model of design learning that could help students more easily make the connection in the senior year between the broad design learning from three years earlier and their newly developed analytical skills? Through a joint effort involving faculty from Engineering Design, Engineering Mechanics, Civil Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering, we hope to answer just that question.

Critical evaluation to determine the effectiveness of any curricular innovation requires some type of concrete baseline evaluation prior to implementation of the innovation. An assessment of improvements to design learning is no different. Design learning and the related design ability have a three-pronged foundation: 1) design process knowledge, 2) creative processing ability, and 3) design analysis knowledge. During the fall 2007 semester, baseline data related to each of these components was collected from students across all four years and several engineering disciplines using the Comprehensive Assessment of Design Engineering Knowledge (CADEK) instrument, a divergent thinking measure, and a creative climate survey. In addition to serving as a benchmark for comparison after curricular innovations are implemented, this baseline data will also enable us to identify the hypothesized gaps in the ability to perform design at different stages of the four year program.

This paper reports on the preliminary findings of this initial data collection. The results of these measures will be used as a baseline in the spring semester to support curricular innovation through infusion of modular design activities and electronic portfolios in the second year strength of materials course, followed in fall 2008 by junior level ME and CE courses to improve design learning.

Masters, C. B., & Schuurman, M., & Okudan, G., & Hunter, S. T. (2008, June), An Investigation Of Gaps In Design Process Learning: Is There A Missing Link Between Breadth And Depth? Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3438

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