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Connecting Design Doing to Design Learning

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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

Changing the Engineering Classroom

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Reid Bailey University of Virginia

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Reid Bailey is an Associate Professor in the Department of Systems and Information Engineering at the University of Virginia. He holds a BSE from Duke University and an MSME and PhD from Georgia Tech, all in mechanical engineering. His professional interests include engineering design, engineering education, and the environment.

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Prior work shows that doing design does not necessarily lead to learning design. This research paper explores how to strengthen the connection between the activities done by students in a design class and student learning.

In particular, we draw from prior studies focused on problem formulation knowledge of engineering students in first-year hands-on engineering design classes. In spite of the fact that students in these classes had been involved in problem formulation activities such as talking with and observing users, identifying needs, and/or writing requirements, the studies showed that there was no evidence that the students had learned the importance of including such activities in a design process. Several interventions were implemented in an effort to change this, with a prior study showing a statistically significant change: students were learning the importance of problem formulation activities after the interventions. What remained unclear, however, were the specific reasons for the improvements.

In this research paper, reasons for why student learning of problem formulation’s role in design increased so dramatically are explored using interviews with students from the classes.

We interviewed six students who had taken one of the courses where improved learning was observed. These students had taken the course as a first year and were interviewed during spring of their junior or senior year. Questions were broad and open-ended, asking students, for example, to recall projects they had done during their first year and if any of those projects affected how they design now. Other questions focused specifically on the main takeaways from the first-year course and how they learned them.

Responses were iteratively open coded to identify emergent themes. All six subjects identified a one-week project done in the first week of class as 1) a key part of the class and 2) the place in the class where they learned that an engineer must engage in problem formulation activities. All subjects also discussed the term-long projects, but only one connected the term-long project to problem formulation. The one-week project is described along with key characteristics that led to its heavy influence on student learning about problem formulation.

Bailey, R. (2017, June), Connecting Design Doing to Design Learning Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28069

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