June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
Educational Research and Methods
22.221.1 - 22.221.32
Approaches to Engaging Students in Engineering Design and Problem SolvingThis research reports results on the curricular, pedagogical, cultural, and organizational featuresof how six diverse engineering institutions embed design and problem solving throughout theirundergraduate curricula. Findings are drawn from the Prototype to Production: Processes andConditions for Preparing the Engineer of 2020 (P2P) and Prototyping the Engineer of 2020: A 360-degree Study of Effective Education (P360) projects. P2P collected data from 30 four-yearengineering schools to provide information on the structure of the design curriculum in morethan 100 engineering programs. P360’s qualitative data from six case studies augments thequantitative P2P data with concrete examples of effective design curricula and co-curricularactivities. The projects collected data from multiple sources: faculty, program chairs,administrators, and undergraduate engineering students. The full study concentrates on threeattributes of the engineer of 2020: design and problem-solving skills, interdisciplinarycompetence, and contextual competence; however, the current paper focuses specifically oneffective strategies for teaching design and problem solving. The paper reports findings from thesix case study institutions of Arizona State University (Tempe & Polytechnic Campuses),Harvey Mudd College, Howard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University ofMichigan, and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.Using the framework shown in Figure 1 we assume that learning is situated in social, cultural,and institutional contexts that strongly influence what is learned and how it is learned (Salomon& Perkins, 1998; Wertsch, 1985). During our data collection and subsequent analyses weidentified several distinct ways that each of our case study institutions engage students in theprocess of engineering design and problem solving. Consistent with the framework, classroomexperiences are only one way that our institutions engaged students in design. Other prominentco- and extra-curricula experiences include individual research experiences with faculty, designcompetitions, global overseas design projects, independent study, industry-sponsored designopportunities, and several other programs unique to the six respective institutions. The paper willprovide detailed examples of how these varied design-focused learning opportunities are situatedorganizationally, and the different approaches for supporting, implementing, and assessing theactivities.Moreover, the literature tends to describe design and problem solving together as equivalent andinterchangeable terms. However, during our study we found that these terms have differentmeanings depending on the context. In particular, the learning goals and subsequent methods forassessment are often quite different for “design” and “analytical problem solving.” The currentpaper will also provide examples of how the six institutions conceptualize these terms in the waythey implement educational activities to support problem solving versus design activities. Resultsfrom this study provide a window into very specific details for how several distinct institutionsengage students in design and problem solving, from the student, faculty and administratorperspectives. These detailed multi-perspective examples, organized around the features of thecollege experience as shown in Figure 1, provide concrete information for how engineeringprograms might implement, revise, or scale design activities at their own institutions.Figure 1. Comprehensive model of influences on student learning and persistence (Adapted fromTerenzini & Reason, 2005).ReferencesSalomon, G., & Perkins, D. (1998). Individual and social aspects of learning. In Review ofResearch in Education, Volume 23 (pp. 1-24). Washington, DC: AERA.Terenzini, P. T., & Reason, R. D. (2005). Parsing the first year of college: A conceptualframework for studying college impacts on students. Paper presented to the Association for theStudy of Higher Education, Philadelphia, PA.Wertsch, J.V. (1985). Vygotsky and the social formation of mind. Cambridge, MA: HarvardUniversity Press.
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