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Assessment of a Novel Learning Block Model for Engineering Design Skill Development: A Case Example for Engineering Design Interviewing

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Design Tools and Skill Development

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Maria R. Young University of Michigan

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Maria Young is an assistant director of the Center for Socially Engaged Design at the University of Michigan (UM). She is also program manager of the UM Global Health Design Initiative. Maria holds a B.S.E. in biomedical engineering from the University of Michigan (2014) and an M.S. in human nutrition from Columbia University (2015). Maria has experience applying qualitative research methods to understand a community's cultural context and design needs. She also has substantial experience using design ethnography and building sustainable partnerships within intercultural settings. Maria has led the development of the Socially Engaged Design Academy at UM, aiming to provide students with an on-demand training program to hone skills imperative to designing appropriate technologies for every context.

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Shanna R. Daly University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Shanna Daly is an Assistant Professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan. She has a B.E. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Dayton (2003) and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University (2008). Her research focuses on strategies for design innovations through divergent and convergent thinking as well as through deep needs and community assessments using design ethnography, and translating those strategies to design tools and education. She teaches design and entrepreneurship courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, focusing on front-end design processes.

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Sara L. Hoffman University of Michigan


Kathleen H. Sienko University of Michigan

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Kathleen H. Sienko is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, Miller Faculty Scholar, and Associate Professor in the Departments of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan. She earned her Ph.D. in Medical Engineering and Bioastronautics from the Harvard-Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Division of Health Science and Technology, and holds an S.M. in Aeronautics & Astronautics from MIT and a B.S. in Materials Engineering from the University of Kentucky. She co-directs the UM Center for Socially Engaged Design and directs the Sensory Augmentation and Rehabilitation Laboratory, Laboratory for Innovation in Global Health Technology, and Global Health Design Initiative.

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Madeline A. Gilleran University of Michigan

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Madeline Gilleran is an senior undergraduate student at the University of Michigan, majoring in Mechanical Engineering and completing International Minor for Engineers. She is involved in the Engineering Global Leadership Honors Program, a specialization within the Honors Program that integrates coursework from the Ross School of Business. She plans to complete her bachelor's degree in December 2017 and will likely complete the sequential undergraduate study program, completing a masters in mechanical engineering in December 2018. Her research interests include engineering education as well as sustainable energy and transportation systems.

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The Socially Engaged Design approach incorporates broad social, cultural, environment, and economic factors into the design of a technology to increase its probability of implementation and sustainment. Socially Engaged Design requires the use of techniques widely considered non-traditional in engineering and therefore there is a lack of pedagogy around these topics within traditional engineering curriculum. Students frequently engage in socially engaged design activities outside of the classroom making it imperative for training be on-demand. We have designed, implemented, and researched a learning block model that combines the convenience and scale of asynchronous online learning with the value of face-to-face hands-on skills training and interactions to teach socially-engaged design.

Each learning block consists of five distinct components. First, students complete a ‘Prior Knowledge Review’ where they answer questions to assess their current skill level and motivations. Next, students are presented with ‘Core Content,’ a collection of resources from multiple disciplines. The third step is a ‘Knowledge Check’ of close-ended and open-ended questions with feedback given from a remote grader. In the fourth step, students are presented with an ‘Application’ task, in which they are prompted to take the knowledge they have learned and apply it to a given design challenge. Students must meet with a coach to present the application task and receive real-time feedback. Finally, the ‘Reflection’ serves as the final part of the block when students ruminate on what they have learned and consider how they will apply their newly honed skill in the future.

We piloted and researched two learning blocks, ‘Crafting Design Interview Protocols’ and ‘Conducting Design Interviews’, with the aim of investigating opinions of socially engaged design topics, skill improvement in interviewing, and perception of the learning block model. We recruited 7 engineering students to participate in this pilot study. Each participant was asked to complete a pre-block and post-block interview task of interviewing a proxy stakeholder. After completion of the post-block task, participants were interviewed by a study team member.

The study team identified interview best practices used by participants in pre-block and post-block tasks and evaluated the quantity and quality of implementation. Comparisons were drawn between each participant’s ‘Prior Knowledge Review’ and ‘Reflection’ submissions. Our findings revealed that students were able to identify a larger amount and more obscure best-practices in crafting interview protocols and conducting design interviews. They were also able to identify a wider range of uses for interviewing techniques. While participants were recruited and compensated to complete the learning blocks in this study, follow up interviews revealed curricular, co-curricular, and professional development motivations for competing future learning blocks. This study is an important step in understanding students’ perspectives of the learning block model and the model’s impact on design education. Data compiled and analyzed in this study is being used to inform future block model and content iterations.

Young, M. R., & Daly, S. R., & Hoffman, S. L., & Sienko, K. H., & Gilleran, M. A. (2017, June), Assessment of a Novel Learning Block Model for Engineering Design Skill Development: A Case Example for Engineering Design Interviewing Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27630

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