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Design Intentions: Engineering Students Looking Ahead to their Future Design Behavior

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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

Best In DEED

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Giovanna Scalone University of Washington

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Giovanna Scalone is a Research Associate at the Center for Engineering Learning and Teaching (CELT) in the UW Department of Human-Centered Design and Engineering. Her research emphasizes the social foundations of learning in both STEM informal and formal learning environments with a focus on agency, meaning-making and identity development.

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Aaron Justin Joya University of Washington

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Aaron Joya is a research assistant in the Center for Engineering Learning and Teaching at the University of Washington. His research interests include design education and Human-Computer Interaction.

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Kathryn Elizabeth Shroyer University of Washington Orcid 16x16


Cynthia J. Atman University of Washington

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Cynthia J. Atman is the founding director of the Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching (CELT), a professor in Human Centered Design & Engineering, and the inaugural holder of the Mitchell T. & Lella Blanche Bowie Endowed Chair at the University of Washington. Dr. Atman is co-director of the newly-formed Consortium for Promoting Reflection in Engineering Education (CPREE), funded by a $4.4 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust. She was director of the NSF-funded Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE), a national research center that was funded from 2003-2010. Dr. Atman is the author or co-author on over 115 archival publications. She has been invited to give many keynote addresses, including a Distinguished Lecture at the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) 2014 Annual Conference.

Dr. Atman joined the UW in 1998 after seven years on the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research focuses on engineering education pedagogy, engineering design learning, assessing the consideration of context in engineering design, and understanding undergraduate engineering student pathways. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the ASEE. She was the recipient of the 2002 ASEE Chester F. Carlson Award for Innovation in Engineering Education and the 2009 UW David B. Thorud Leadership Award. Dr. Atman holds a Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.

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As we critically consider what we mean to accomplish in design teaching and learning, we can start to distinguish between awareness of design practices and processes (i.e., design awareness), intention to engage in design practices and processes in specific ways (i.e., design intention), and subsequent design behavior.

The goal of this paper is to understand engineering student's design intent. We build on a long-term research program in which we have used research results from studies of design expertise to teach about the design process. Specifically, we leverage timeline representations of individuals engaging in a design task to convey design behaviors of designers with various levels of expertise. These representations have been shown to be very effective in promoting student awareness of important aspects of the design process (e.g., the need to spend time problem scoping before engaging in modeling; the need to engage in a broad set of design activities; the need to iterate among design activities). However, awareness about specific elements of design, while important, is not sufficient when it comes to engaging in specific design behaviors. Intent can be seen as an intermediate step between an individual being aware of an action to take, and actually taking that action. We ask: Do students articulate and understand their intentions for changing how they engage with design and if so, how?

In this paper we present findings of what students declare as their intention to engage in a design behavior after they have participated in a classroom exercise. Specifically, 78 students from two different classes in a college of engineering in a large public research-intensive university (50 in a Civil Engineering class, 28 in a Human Centered Design & Engineering class) participated in a classroom activity that took approximately 50 minutes long. After learning about design processes of engineers with various levels of expertise and responding to questions about what they found to be important information, students were asked ‘Will Information from this exercise affect how you will do design in the future? How?’ Student responses were coded using first open coding and then axial coding to further articulate the themes within the responses once they were identified.

Preliminary findings show that students are thinking metacognitively about design by articulating plans, managing time efficiently, monitoring their steps and evaluating their design process. While all students are able to articulate their design intentions, some demonstrate a refined understanding of their design intentions and actionable strategies that could directly impact how they design in the future. In the final paper we will describe these metacognitive plans in more detail, and will investigate if students from the different majors describe different intentions.

This practical classroom activity can be used at the beginning of time intensive design experiences (such as term-long design projects or capstone design courses) to help students develop an awareness of important aspects of the design processes and set intentions for how they will engage in their design projects.

Scalone, G., & Joya, A. J., & Shroyer, K. E., & Atman, C. J. (2019, June), Design Intentions: Engineering Students Looking Ahead to their Future Design Behavior Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32602

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