June 18, 2006
June 18, 2006
June 21, 2006
Design in Engineering Education
11.405.1 - 11.405.16
Design is Design is Design (or is it?) What We Say vs. What We Do in Engineering Design Education
At the undergraduate level, design attracts and excites students as they are drawn to the creative possibilities of the field of engineering. For the professional engineer, compelled to synthesize novel and effective solutions to difficult problems while operating at the limits of existing theoretical and practical knowledge, design is the duel source of great challenge and prime satisfaction. Design is one of the most fundamental, identifiable and enjoyable aspects of engineering practice, whether in industry or the academy. Nevertheless, while the importance of design is widely acknowledged, there is discord associated with efforts to define it.1 The challenge is not that we lack a definition of design but that we have them in abundance. While engineering design research and engineering design practice benefit from the multiple perspectives and methods afforded by numerous definitions, the benefit to engineering design education is dubious. Indeed, the efficacy of engineering design education may be diminished by the lack of a common definition. Pedagogy and its assessment rely on shared definitions of the common corpus of knowledge that is to be learned. It is our contention that a common definition of design is the necessary precursor to
(1) description and implementation of engineering design instruction in a single class, (2) the development of coherent engineering design experience across a curriculum and (3) the assessment and assurance of a consistent engineering design education experience across a discipline.
The research presented in this paper focuses on mechanical engineering design and is composed of two parts. The first is quantitative, wherein we attempt to understand where and when in the curricula design appears in the undergraduate mechanical engineering curricula of five U.S. universities. The design class is the unit of inspection in this quantitative phase. In the qualitative second phase of the research, we dissect individual classes within each of the curricula with the intention to understand what specific content and activities make them “design classes.” It is from the qualitative analysis that we have extracted a pragmatic and substantive definition of engineering design education. As distinguished from the theoretical, this grounded definition grants insight into the reality of design education as practiced. Through analysis, a descriptive language is developed to depict design, as it exists in the classroom, offering a striking contrast to existing theoretical or conjectural definitions of design. It also provides the opportunity to objectively compare expressed design education goals to actual educational practice.
This work finds its origins in the Preparations for the Professions Program (PPP) initiated in 1999 by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.2 This initiative was driven by a desire to understand and describe formal efforts to educate professional practitioners. The first phase of the program focused on three professions—law, the clergy and engineering. The research presented here began within the engineering component.
In the first stage of the PPP engineering study, documents from a national survey and ABET self-studies from 50 engineering schools (over 100 programs) were reviewed. This stage granted
Neeley, W. L., & Sheppard, S., & Leifer, L. (2006, June), Design Is Design Is Design (Or Is It?): What We Say Vs. What We Do In Engineering Design Education Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1288
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