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Application Of Learning Models To The Engineering Design Pedagogy

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Early Engineering Design Experiences

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.220.1 - 14.220.16



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Paper Authors

author page

M. Reza Emami University of Toronto

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



This paper discusses the implementation of a hybrid framework for teaching cornerstone design courses based on the behaviourist and constructivist learning models, which ensures adequate instruction and scaffolding while students develop their design knowledge through hands-on projects. The instructional design methodology is based on the Elaboration Theory that allows a gradual transition from content-based instruction to project-based knowledge construction. The practical steps are detailed for a full-year design course at the sophomore level.

1. Introduction

Design has changed status from a formal course to a flagship stream. There has been a clear transition in the engineering curricula from the traditional approach to the alternative paradigm. The former viewed design as a byproduct of engineering education that cannot occur without the solid formation of engineering sciences1, whereas the latter argues that analytical knowledge is not adequate for tackling real-life engineering problems, and that design can be viewed as a means of learning engineering not a result of it. Capstone design courses are fruits of former approach. They have proven to be useful in addressing the critical feedback from industry perceiving graduating engineers as unable to tackle real problems and manage professional design practice, because of the change of focus from theoretical to practical2,3. Yet, the alternative paradigm seeks a more integrative role for design, and thus introduces it at the freshman and sophomore levels, usually dubbed as cornerstone design courses4. Both anecdotal data5 and hard evidence6 have indicated that cornerstone courses enhance students’ motivation, their retention in engineering programs, and their performance in senior engineering science and capstone design courses. A major breakthrough in teaching cornerstone design courses, albeit previously practiced in the senior capstone designs, has been the adoption of project-based learning models and student-centred, experiential teaching/learning mechanisms7. A wide spectrum of project-based design instruction has been implemented, from case study to reverse engineering, to studio-based design, to full-scale projects tackling realistic (industry-customer) or semi-realistic (faculty-customer) problems. An excellent review is provided by Sheppard and Jenison8 (up to 1997) and Dym et al.7 (recently). These courses, which have been created over the past two decades, demonstrate a great diversity in terms of implementing project-based, team-centred approaches. Nonetheless, they share two major features7: a) they are scheduled in one semester (or two quarters); and b) they tend to focus more heavily on conceptual design methods and less on prototyping design artifacts. Consequently, the learning process in these semester courses is extended up to design on paper/computer, or even if they reach beyond to prototype fabrication the artifacts are primitive (such as kit-based projects9) and/or discipline- specific (such as remote control mobile mechanisms involving mechanical design only10). This is partly because of the shortage of time and experimentation/fabrication resources and partly due to the lack of adequate knowledge that students will acquire only later in the curriculum. Despite a number of positive reports11, the efficacy of project-based education in engineering programs has yet remained to be investigated thoroughly12. Furthermore, little has been addressed in the

Emami, M. R. (2009, June), Application Of Learning Models To The Engineering Design Pedagogy Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5315

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