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Design Process Learning And Creative Processing Ability: Is There A Synergy?

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Design in Engineering Education Potpourri

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.419.1 - 14.419.11



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Paper Authors

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Christine B. Masters Pennsylvania State University

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Samuel T Hunter Pennsylvania State University

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Gul Kremer Pennsylvania State University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Design Process Learning and Creative Processing Ability: Is there a synergy?


We present a study where we have analyzed the change of design process knowledge and creative processing skills in our engineering students. Overall, our findings indicate that while our students significantly improve their design processing knowledge during sophomore, and junior years of their engineering education, in the senior year, what had been gained is possibly being lost. Likewise, while there is an increase in creative processing skills in the sophomore year, for junior and senior years, what is gained is lost. As a result, senior students may be leaving the university with less design processing knowledge and creative processing abilities than they had while they were sophomores. We believe that our study can be a foundational reference for researchers and educators who aim to increase our graduates’ creative design outcomes.


Design learning and the related design ability have a three-pronged foundation: 1) design process knowledge, 2) design analysis knowledge, and 3) creative processing ability (ideation). Design process knowledge, in general, is taught in first year design courses, and then practiced during capstone design. During second and third year courses, the engineering curriculum focuses on analytical concepts and techniques ultimately intended to support design analysis ability. However, students frequently have difficulty in integrating their design process knowledge and analysis abilities during capstone design projects.

Most four year engineering programs include a first year course focused on the engineering design process where students are exposed to the wide range of issues that must be considered with regard to the ‘real life’ activity of designing a product or a process. These courses typically culminate in a team report describing the breadth of information accumulated and considered to arrive at the final recommended design. However, at the first year, students normally lack the knowledge to perform any meaningful analysis on their product or process, but rather focus their activities on the less ‘technical’ but equally important aspects of the design, such as consumer needs, economic impact, safety and design communication.

Once students leave their first year, the curriculum focus usually turns almost exclusively to teaching the analytical tools students will need as working engineers to accomplish innovative design, with far less emphasis on the broad design issues that extend beyond the analysis. Anecdotal evidence shows that students do not connect the newly acquired analytical knowledge with the design process, creating a design learning gap. When students return to a design emphasis in the senior year capstone course, they are expected to bridge this gap by synthesizing the broad engineering design understanding from the first year with their analytical depth gained in the second and third years to produce unique engineering design solutions. Given the anecdotal evidence indicating difficulty in this integration, we find it important to assess how the

Masters, C. B., & Hunter, S. T., & Kremer, G. (2009, June), Design Process Learning And Creative Processing Ability: Is There A Synergy? Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5454

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