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Developing An Understanding Of Instructors’ Design Learning Philosophies In A Service Learning Context

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Multidisciplinary Design in the Classroom

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.488.1 - 12.488.11



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Paper Authors


Carla Zoltowski Purdue University

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CARLA B. ZOLTOWSKI is Education Administrator of the EPICS Program at Purdue
University. She received her BSEE and MSEE from Purdue University, and is currently pursuing her PhD in Engineering Education at Purdue. She has served as a lecturer in Purdue’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

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William Oakes Purdue University Orcid 16x16

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WILLIAM C. OAKES is an Associate Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Purdue University and the Interim-Director of the EPICS Program. He is a co-recipient of the 2005 National Academy of Engineering’s Bernard M. Gordon Prize and the 2004 NSPE Engineering Education Excellence Award. He is a past-chair of the ASEE IL/IN Section, and board member of Freshman Programs and Educational Research Methods Divisions.

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

Developing an Understanding of Instructors’ Design Learning Philosophies in a Service-Learning Context


Engineering design involves the creation of an artifact which impacts and becomes a part of the world. Although design is generally considered an essential activity of engineering, the nature of engineering design and the cognitive processes involved in this complex activity are not widely understood. How to effectively teach the design process is even less understood. Learning engineering design is a complex process, and it is most often taught in engineering via project- based courses in which instructors guide students through the design process.

In their review of research related to the teaching and learning of engineering design, Dym, Agogino, Eris, Frey, & Leifer7 assumed that “the purpose of engineering education is to graduate engineers who can design, and that design thinking is complex.” (p. 103) They discussed the tension in many engineering curricula between importance of design and engineering sciences. The article also provides a definition of design and states several attributes that good designers should exhibit and that design instruction should seek to develop. Dym et al also discussed a variety of project-based design courses and concluded that, not only do the project-based design courses emulate the team-based environments that most engineering graduates will encounter in industry, “available research suggests that these kinds of courses appear to improve retention, student satisfaction, diversity, and student learning.” (p. 114)

Within a project-based design course, the instructor’s design learning philosophy can be an important factor influencing the students’ design learning experience. A fundamental question is how instructors’ view of design learning and design itself impact the student’s learning of design and the designs produced by the teams. The research of the instructors’ view of design learning and the impact on student learning is limited within the field of engineering education. Friesen & Britton8 conducted a qualitative study of a specific course trilogy in biosystems engineering that sought to find relationships between the students’, instructors’, and the industry cooperators’ understanding of design, and teaching and learning goals. In the study the participants were asked to articulate their understanding of design and the goals of the courses. Instructors were asked to articulate their approaches to teaching. The results of the study indicated that students were able to articulate a more refined definition of design and the course goals that more closely aligned with instructor goals as they progressed through the course series. Instructors sought to create learning environments which modeled industry. They saw their role as instructors as facilitators of learning in an experiential rich environment.

Much of the research in the design studies field that seeks to develop an understanding of design and design learning does so by studying the design process models used by the designers. Mosborg, Adams, Kim, Atman, Turns, and Cardella9 studied conceptions of expert designers of the engineering design process by having them “talk aloud” about a given model of the design process, and then to produce their own sketch of the design process model that represented their conception of the design process. The designers were from a variety of fields, and developed

Zoltowski, C., & Oakes, W. (2007, June), Developing An Understanding Of Instructors’ Design Learning Philosophies In A Service Learning Context Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2399

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