Asee peer logo

Characterizing Students' Micro-Iterations Strategies through Data-Logged Design Actions

Download Paper |


2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Understanding Student Development in Design

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Corey T. Schimpf The Concord Consoritum Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Corey Schimpf is a Learning Analytics Scientist at the non-for-profit Concord Consortium, which develops technology and curriculum for STEM learning in K-12. One avenue of his work focuses on the development and analysis of learning analytics that model students’ cognitive states or strategies from fine-grained computer-logged data from students participating in open-ended technology-centered science and engineering projects. In another avenue of his work he develops assistive software to help researchers dealing with complex, high dimensional problems, such as an integrated sets of methodological tools or a multi-purpose data processing tools for high volume data with limited structure. His dissertation research explored the use of Minecraft to teach early engineering college students about the design process.

visit author page

author page

Charles Xie The Concord Consortium

Download Paper |


Iteration or the presence of cyclical patterns in design is a core aspect of the design process. Iteration is often necessary in design work for several reasons: there are many intertwined factors or phenomena affecting a design situation, there are multiple competing solutions for a given problem, and there are often opportunities to improve a design once an adequate solution has been identified. In design research, iteration is often studied at a macro-level, focusing on stages (e.g., ideation, modeling, and evaluation). These studies have provided vital insight into the design process and design thinking, however, iteration between stages is conceptually abstract and coarse-grained. High-order concepts such as stages are not easily redeployed as micro-strategies students can use to inform their step-by-step design actions or as action prompts teachers can use for struggling students. Fine-grained, action-by-action logged data can enable the detailed capture of students’ design process. These logs can then be analyzed for inventive and useful micro-strategies students employed. Next, identified micro-strategies may be redeployed to assist other students engaging in similar design projects or serve as teacher prompts. This paper will examine the logged actions of 27 high school students who participated in the Solarize Your Home project. In this project, students were tasked to design a solar panel system for their home that met the utility use of their home (energy constraint) and that was within a realistic, set budget (financial constraint). Students used Energy3D, a CAD software with powerful simulation and analytical tools, to evaluate solar potential and panel output of designed arrays. Energy3D also logs students’ actions as they use the platform, from adding, removing, relocating and changing the efficiency of solar panels to daily, yearly, and selected group analysis of solar panel yield to many other non-solar energy related actions. Solar energy related actions are the focus of this study as this is the core of the design project. To analyze students’ actions for micro-iterations, continuous chains of solar related activities will be extracted from the activity log and qualitatively coded and categorized using the following characteristics: cyclical patterns in chains, composition or the types of actions included in chains/pattern, length of chains/patterns, and preceding/proceeding non-solar actions. Here patterns refer to iterative, continuous sets of solar actions (e.g., a student places a panel, tests is potential, and then moves and tests it again). Additionally, past research on design and iteration will be used to inform and contextualize the emergent iteration categories.

The micro-iterations identified through the above analysis may prove useful for students as micro-strategies: for exploring more of the design space, for conducting design experiments and for optimizing a design. Similar to design heuristics, such micro-strategies could be used proactively by students who are aware of them or by design instructors as action prompts for students. Finally, these micro-iterations may complement previous findings on more macro-iterations and thereby expand our understanding of how people engage in design thinking.

Schimpf, C. T., & Xie, C. (2017, June), Characterizing Students' Micro-Iterations Strategies through Data-Logged Design Actions Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28027

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: © 2017 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