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Exploring the Effect of Design Education on the Design Cognition of Sophomore Engineering Students

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Research on Engineering Design Education

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.619.1 - 25.619.16



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Paper Authors

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Christopher B. Williams Virginia Tech


Marie C. Paretti Virginia Tech Orcid 16x16

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Marie C. Paretti is an Associate Professor of engineering education at Virginia Tech, where she co-directs the Virginia Tech Engineering Communications Center (VTECC). Her research focuses on communication in engineering design, interdisciplinary communication and collaboration, and design education. She was awarded a CAREER grant from NSF to study expert teaching practices in capstone design courses nationwide, and is Co-PI on several NSF grants to explore identity and interdisciplinary collaboration in engineering design.

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Yoon Suk Lee Virginia Tech

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John S Gero George Mason University

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Exploring the Effect of Design Education on the Design Cognition of Sophomore Engineering StudentsIn this paper, the authors report on progress of a three-year longitudinal study on the impact ofdesign education on students’ design thinking and practice. Using innovations in cognitivescience and new methods of protocol analysis, the authors are working with engineeringstudents to characterize their design cognition as they progress through engineering curricula.To observe potential effects of design education, students from two curricula at a large research-intensive state university are being studied. The control group is a major focused onengineering mechanics, which has a theoretical orientation that focuses on mathematicalmodeling based on first principles and has little formal design education. The experimentalgroup is a mechanical engineering major that uses design as a context for its curriculum.Volunteer student participants participate in two out-of-class experiments (at the beginning andend of each year) where they are tasked with designing assistive-technology products.In order to provide a uniform basis for comparing design students across projects and years, theauthors use a task-independent protocol analysis method that is grounded on a designontology-based coding scheme. This scheme is based on a general design ontology, namely, theFunction-Behavior-Structure (FBS) ontology. The power of this approach lies specifically in itsmove from the analysis of design behaviors, which may be tied to a single domain, to theelucidation of design cognition; this move is critical to furthering the ability of designresearchers to make robust comparisons across a wide variety of settings.The focus in this paper is in presenting the results of the first-year of the study. In this year, thestudents of the experimental group completed an introductory mechanical design course, whilestudents of the control group had no exposure to design education. The authors compare andanalyze the percent occurrences of design issues and syntactic design processes from theprotocol analysis of both cohorts. These results provide an opportunity to investigate andunderstand how sophomore students’ design ability is affected by a design course.

Williams, C. B., & Paretti, M. C., & Lee, Y. S., & Gero, J. S. (2012, June), Exploring the Effect of Design Education on the Design Cognition of Sophomore Engineering Students Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21376

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