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Design Ability Assessment Technique

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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

DEED Melange

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.360.1 - 24.360.13



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Paper Authors


Libby Osgood P. Eng Dalhousie University and University of Prince Edward Island

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Libby Osgood is an Assistant Professor at the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada, where she teaches dynamics and design courses. Concurrently, she is pursuing her PhD in Mechanical Engineering at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her background is in aerospace engineering, specifically related to satellite design. She was a systems engineer for the integration, test, and launch of NASA Goddard’s FERMI satellite. Her interests have shifted to studying active learning techniques in engineering education, specifically service learning and social justice.

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Clifton R Johnston P.Eng. Dalhousie University

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Design Ability Assessment Technique  There  is  an  ongoing  debate  to  determine  which  engineering  design  projects  provide  the  greatest  learning  opportunity  for  students.  Variations  include:  whether  the  client  is  hypothetical,  from  industry,  or  a  member  of  a  community  organization,  whether  the  product  is  a  paper  design,  prototype,  or  fully  functioning  product,  and  whether  the  length  of  the  project  is  a  few  weeks  long,  multi-­‐semester,  or  multi-­‐year.  In  order  to  compare  the  merit  of  each  of  the  factors  and  measure  the  impact  on  student  learning,  an  assessment  technique  must  be  developed.      While  students  develop  many  versatile  skills  through  design  projects,  such  as  communication,  teamwork,  leadership,  and  engineering  science  content,  the  largest  impact  is  shown  in  students’  ability  to  design.  Design  projects  can  be  the  sole  location  that  students  are  exposed  to  lessons  in  how  to  design,  so  this  is  the  ideal  skill  to  measure,  as  it  is  less  likely  to  be  affected  by  external  factors.      Using  a  combination  of  four-­‐point  Likert  scale  items,  multiple-­‐choice  questions  relating  to  a  design  scenario,  and  quantitative  self-­‐assessment,  a  design  ability  assessment  technique  was  piloted  in  the  Winter  of  2013.  The  design  ability  construct  was  defined  as  an  ability  to  define  the  problem,  evaluate  alternatives,  and  communicate  the  design.  This  was  derived  from  a  literature  review  and  accreditation  materials.  Four-­‐point  Likert-­‐scale  items  were  also  included  concerning  ethical  awareness,  which  was  defined  as  knowledge  of  equal  treatment  of  all  persons,  ethical  conduct  in  all  situations,  appreciating  cultural  diversity  for  all  ethnicities,  and  possessing  a  keen  awareness  of  engineers’  responsibility  to  society.      The  quantitative  instrument  was  piloted  to  200  students  with  a  10%  response  rate.  While  some  items  displayed  a  statistically  significant  result,  other  items  were  highly  skewed,  indicating  a  poorly  written  item.  Using  this  information,  the  instrument  was  updated  and  is  in  the  process  of  validation.  This  paper  will  discuss  the  original  instrument,  results  of  the  pilot  study,  and  the  changes  that  were  inspired  by  the  study.      

Osgood, L., & Johnston, C. R. (2014, June), Design Ability Assessment Technique Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20251

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