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Assessing Knowledge and Application of the Design Process

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

FPD 8: Teaching Design in the First Year

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.203.1 - 24.203.13



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Paper Authors

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Ann Saterbak Rice University


Tracy Volz Rice University

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Tracy Volz, PhD, is the Director of Rice University’s Program in Writing and Communication. Prior to this role, she spent fourteen years teaching technical communication in the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership and in the Cain Project in Engineering and Professional Communication at Rice. In addition to working with Rice faculty and students, Dr. Volz has conducted communication seminars for professional engineering societies and corporations. Her scholarly interests focus on oral presentations, technical poster design, and pedagogical innovation. She earned a BA in English from the University of Iowa and a PhD in English from Rice University.

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Assessing Knowledge and Application of the Design Process in a First-Year Engineering Design CourseAuthentic, client-based projects form the foundation of a one-semester freshman design course atXXXX University. The course is an elective course available for all freshman students in theSchool of Engineering. First-year students learn the engineering design process and use it tosolve meaningful problems drawn from local hospitals, industry, local community partners, XXXUniversity, and international partners.The objectives for the course are to (a) have students learn and practice the engineering designprocess early in their engineering education, and (b) increase undergraduate retention inengineering at XXXX University by 10%. These two objectives align with important themesand goals published elsewhere. For this first-year design course, three specific learningoutcomes have been defined: students design a product that meets user-defined needs andrealistic constraints; students communicate effectively through written reports and oral/visualpresentations; and students work effectively on multidisciplinary teams.Steps in the design process form the core of the course lecture material. Most class periods aresplit between an interactive lecture about a step in the design process and team meetings tocomplete the design process, including prototype construction.Assessment of students’ knowledge of the design process was measured by asking students tocritique the strengths and weaknesses of a Gantt chart. The Gantt chart laid out a 14-weekdesign process in which a team was to develop and build an examination bed for a clinic built byEngineers Without Borders in Nicaragua. Using this recently refined tool, assessment ofstudents’ knowledge and application of the design process was conducted at the beginning andend of the semester. Written responses were coded by three trained raters on eight aspects: 1)needs assessment/establishing design criteria; 2) design context review; 3) idea generation; 4)analysis and decision-making; 5) building and testing; 6) overall layout of a design process anditeration; 7) time allotments; and 8) documentation.Data presented in the paper will include ~150 student responses from fall 2012, spring 2013, andfall 2013. Statistical analysis is ongoing to probe differences in pre- and post-test results forstudent responses. Analyses will also be completed to evaluate this assessment method againstthe previous tool used for this course as well as methods used in other first-year designprograms.

Saterbak, A., & Volz, T. (2014, June), Assessing Knowledge and Application of the Design Process Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20094

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