June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Design in Engineering Education
23.380.1 - 23.380.24
Designing for Communities: The Impact of Domain ExpertiseEngineers are often tasked with designing projects that demand consideration of local, regional,and even global communities. The contexts in which engineering projects are situated can becomplex, and require both technical expertise and an ability to consider broad contextual issues.While expert engineers hold a myriad of experiential knowledge in their domain of expertise toaid them in thinking more broadly; the beginning engineer relies predominately upon theireducational background. ABET, the engineering accreditation body, specifically states inCriterion 3H, that engineering programs should help engineering students achieve the “the broadeducation necessary to understand the impact of engineering solutions in a global, economic,environmental, and societal context.” Teaching these skills to engineering students is a difficulttask, but one that is essential if engineers are to design for the benefit of the communities inwhich they work, interact, and reside. The research presented in this paper addresses thischallenge by seeking to understand the relationships between the possession of expertise in aparticular domain and the potential accompanying ability to situate problems and think morebroadly. Insights from this work can inform the creation of methods to support engineeringstudents in developing expertise that involves the broad thinking necessary to encouragecommunity-oriented design solutions. This paper presents a qualitative analysis of transcribed think-aloud sessions whereinparticipants were given the task of designing a playground within a three hour time frame. Thesample consisted of five engineering experts screened for lack of playground design knowledgeand four playground experts. All participants were chosen to represent a spectrum of ability increating quality design artifacts. Following coding of transcriptions, derived data wereinstantiated as visualizations to uncover initial relationships between codes and the participantsthemselves. The results of this analysis demonstrate that participants with domain expertise (i.e.playground experts), when compared with non-domain experts (i.e. engineering experts), wereinclined to consider context (esp. socially oriented factors) more often, regarded actors and theiruse of the playground equipment in a holistic manner, and utilized professional domainknowledge over personal knowledge almost exclusively. Bucharelli (2008) stated, “The way we structure our curriculum and teach our subjects allconspire to instill in the student the idea that engineering work is value-free”. Suchstraightforward, linear thinking in design processes may be detrimental to broad thinking andlimit engineers’ ability to be successful designers of community-based projects. Byacknowledging the impact of domain expertise and experience, we may find inspiration and alens through which engineering educators may begin to better aid their students in developingdesign expertise that is connected, socially-conscious, and inspired.
Krause, K. E., & Atman, C. J., & Borgford-Parnell, J. L., & Yasuhara, K. (2013, June), Designing for Communities: The Impact of Domain Expertise Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19394
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