Asee peer logo

Appraising Student Design Learning: Comparing Design Processes of First-year and Senior-year Engineering Students

Download Paper |


2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Teaching In and Through Design, Maker Spaces, and Open-ended Problems

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Mycala Read South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

visit author page

I just completed my BS in mechanical engineering from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology.

visit author page


Micah Lande South Dakota School of Mines and Technology

visit author page

Micah Lande, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor and E.R. Stensaas Chair for Engineering Education in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology. He teaches human-centered engineering design, design thinking, and design innovation courses. Dr. Lande researches how technical and non-technical people learn and apply design thinking and making processes to their work. He is interested in the intersection of designerly epistemic identities and vocational pathways. Dr. Lande received his B.S. in Engineering (Product Design), M.A. in Education (Learning, Design and Technology) and Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering (Design Education) from Stanford University.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Traditionally, engineering design is taught as a tool for synthesis and integration of engineering content knowledge for students in capstone courses. These engineering design courses are usually successful, in that the students do well, they come up with innovative solutions, and they are satisfied with their school experience and feel ready for the real world. But, what is the evidence that students have actually learned and can apply their design and engineering learning successfully for synthesis and integration? What are the student’s own understandings of the design process and engineering design practice? How might they conceive of their own engineering and design epistemic identities? This work investigates these questions. Evidence of how design and engineering activities change over time as well as how first-year Master’s students in Mechanical Engineering conceptualize design and engineering will come from a project-based learning design course. Students were queried at the beginning, middle and end of the course for 1) concept map of their typical design process, and 2) representations of what a designer and an engineer do at work, and 3) conceptions of engineering and design. Items were given out in survey form and participants answered questions by hand. Approximately 30 questionnaires were collected at each stage. Students were asked to draw their “typical design process.” Models of design are prevalent in textbooks and literature. Once in action though, design practitioners often synthesize and adapt their own experiences and learning into a mental model of their design process. Study of novice and expert designers have generated insight into these. By asking students to draw their typical design process it was hoped that the authors could approximate the students’ mental model.

For many years researchers have used the Draw-A-Scientist Test to get at students’ perceptions of that field. Based on recent work developing a Draw-an-Engineer Test this paper extends the subject areas to include designers and engineers. Students were asked to draw a designer and to draw an engineer at work and define the tasks and roles that designers and engineers undertake. Their representations of design and engineering were coded according to key words in their descriptions and items shown in the drawing.

Initial findings from qualitative content analysis indicate that the concept maps of design process mature over time along a consistent learning trajectory. Students also have distinct but complimentary models of the roles of a designer and engineer along two emerging themes: idea generation vs. idea implementation and human-centered design vs. technology-centered. This work highlights some paired examples of student drawings along with an assessment of the concept maps of their design process before and after a class experience. It is insightful to get at students conceptualizations and perceptions of design. Do perceptions change over time? Is this a feasible way to get at students’ understandings? It is hoped that this analysis can influence how students are taught and assessed.

Read, M., & Lande, M. (2021, July), Appraising Student Design Learning: Comparing Design Processes of First-year and Senior-year Engineering Students Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36696

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2021 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015