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Board 33: Empirical Foundations for Improved Engineering Education: Differences Between Engineering Students and Professional Expert Engineers while Designing

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Design in Engineering Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


John S. Gero University of North Carolina, Charlotte

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John Gero is Research Professor in Computer Science and Architecture at UNCC, Research Professor in Krasnow Institute for Advanced Study, and Research Professor in Computational Social Science at George Mason University. He was formerly Professor of Design Science, University of Sydney. He has edited/authored over 50 books and published over 650 research papers. He has been a professor of mechanical engineering, civil engineering, architecture, cognitive science, and computer science at MIT, UC-Berkeley, UCLA, Columbia and CMU in the USA, at Strathclyde and Loughborough in the UK, at INSA-Lyon and Provence in France and at EPFL in Switzerland.

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Kurt Henry Becker Utah State University - Engineering Education

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Kurt Becker is the current director for the Center for Engineering Education Research (CEER) which examines innovative and effective engineering education practices as well as classroom technologies that advance learning and teaching in engineering. He is also working on National Science Foundation (NSF) funded projects exploring engineering design thinking. His areas of research include engineering design thinking, adult learning cognition, engineering education professional development and technical training. He has extensive international experience working on technical training and engineering educaton projects funded by the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and U.S. Department of Labor, USAID. Countries where he has worked include Armenia, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, China, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, and Thailand. In addition, he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses for the Department of Engineering Education at Utah State University.

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Yuzhen Luo Utah State University - Engineering Education

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PhD Candidate | USU Engineering Education

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Lilian Maria de Souza Almeida Utah State University

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Dr. Lilian Almeida is a Ph.D. Research Assistant at Utah State University.

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Sarah Abdellahi

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Wai Tak Jeff Kan

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This project aims to measure and compare the design thinking of teams of engineering students and teams of expert engineers through a study of their cognitive processes while designing. Tools and processes developed in previously funded NSF projects provide a uniform basis for comparing students and experts that is independent of the educational and experiential background of the participants and provide a robust empirical evidence-based grounding for its conclusions.

Understanding the difference between developing learners and an expert target performance is essential to the identification of appropriate learning experiences to move learners along the trajectory to becoming experts. This project addresses the gap in knowledge and provides statistically significant evidence using a controlled study. Teams of students with different disciplines and diversity profiles and teams of engineering design experts were recruited to protocol studies.

To quantitatively measure their respective cognition while designing, the protocol analysis method; where videos are transcribed, segmented, coded, and analyzed to produce the base data, is utilized. The basis for coding and analysis is a recognized model in design research known as the Function-Behavior-Structure (FBS) Ontology. The coded protocols provide a very rich data source from which the design cognition can be determined and understood. The analytical techniques are drawn from design theory, cognitive science and statistical modeling. Analysis of the data consist of standard statistics, Problem-Solution (P-S) Index, and Correspondence Analysis.

As this project approaches the final phase, a complete set of data will be available to be presented during ASEE 2019. The additional results will be combined with previous findings from preliminary results. This coalescence will paint a holistic and complete picture of the design processes and cognitive behaviors between experts and students. The results will inform leaders in engineering education, developers of instructional materials and curricula, as well as teachers and designers of classroom strategy planning, of initiatives in formal engineering education. As such, a workshop of engineering design educators will be developed to explore educational strategies to bridge the gap between engineering experts and engineering students’ design skills.

Furthermore, comparison of design cognition among students; freshmen and seniors, reveal learning trajectories across engineering curricular. Understanding the gap in design cognition between these two cohorts will be an invaluable insight to help education leaders make informed decisions to improve engineering education earlier in the programs of study.

This work is supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. EEC-1463809 and EEC-1463873.

Gero, J. S., & Becker, K. H., & Luo, Y., & de Souza Almeida, L. M., & Abdellahi, S., & Kan, W. T. J. (2019, June), Board 33: Empirical Foundations for Improved Engineering Education: Differences Between Engineering Students and Professional Expert Engineers while Designing Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32325

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