Asee peer logo

Gender Differences in An Energy Conservation Idea Generation Task

Download Paper |


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

Design Cognition III

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.664.1 - 25.664.10



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Senay Purzer Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Senay Purzer is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering Education and is the Director of Assessment Research for the Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning (INSPIRE) at Purdue University. Purzer has has journal publications on instrument development, teacher professional development, and K-12 engineering education. Her research focuses on assessing constructs such as innovation, information literacy, and collaborative learning.

visit author page


Nicholas D. Fila Purdue University

visit author page

Nicholas D. Fila is a doctoral student and Graduate Research Assistant in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Illinois. He has published conference papers on cooperative learning and team innovation. His research focuses on teamwork, innovation, and laboratory education.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Gender Differences in An Energy Conservation Idea Generation TaskEngineering student teams are often formed under the assumption that diversity will increaseteam performance and innovativeness. The traditional rationale is that individuals from diversebackgrounds will be more innovative and various in their ideas and will scrutinize potentialsolutions more critically and thoroughly. However, researchers have produced conflictingevidence. Recent meta-analyses of teams have demonstrated that demographic diversity (gender,race, age) has no significant effect, or sometimes a negative effect, on team performance. Ratherthan approaching the problem from an outcome-oriented stance, as has much of the previousresearch, this study examined gender differences in student solutions. Specifically, our researchquestions were: Do male and female engineering students have the tendency to develop differenttypes of solutions during an idea generation task? And thereby, do gender-heterogeneous teamshave the potential (or capacity) to consider a more various set of solutions than gender-homogenous teams?At a large Midwestern university, 73 first-year engineering students completed a brief ideageneration task as part of a design practical exam. The students were asked to list ways to reduceenergy consumption at a local public library. The 404 solutions were coded using constantcomparison. Through the coding process, the authors identified five energy reduction strategiesutilized by the students (increase efficiency, reduce usage, use alternative energy, reduce libraryoperation cost, and change behaviors). The proportions of male and female student solutions (N= 360 and 44 respectively) for each strategy were compared using a Fisher’s exact test. Femalestudents were more likely to propose alternative energy solutions (such as installing solar panels)while male students were more likely to propose solutions involving reduced usage of energy-consuming devices (such as dimming the lights). There was no significant difference in theproportion of solutions involving increasing efficiency, reducing library operation cost, orchanging behaviors. These results suggest that male and female engineering students approachdesign solutions somewhat differently. Therefore, gender diversity in student teams canpotentially lead to a wider solution space and consideration of non-obvious ideas. Futureresearch should examine how well the social dynamics of teams allow an equitable exchange andconsideration of these diverse ideas.

Purzer, S., & Fila, N. D. (2012, June), Gender Differences in An Energy Conservation Idea Generation Task Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21421

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2012 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015