June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Educational Research and Methods
23.883.1 - 23.883.16
Making Sense of Design: A Thematic Analysis of Alumni Experiences of Design in SLPXDesign is a topic of significant interest among engineering education researchers. In efforts toidentify how students learn design, several significant engineering education studies havediscussed how students enact design behavior, how they construe their understandings of design,and how they develop in their design ways of thinking and doing. While the motivations forthese studies are diverse, many address a large and common question confronting engineeringeducation – how do we prepare twenty-first century engineers to design effective solutions forcomplex problems?In practice, the response to this overarching question has taken many forms in engineeringeducation. Often, curricula constrain the time of the design experience to fit within the academiccalendar and the context to be simulated rather than authentic. In contrast, a multidisciplinary,service-learning program at University X (SLPX) engages students in design experiences withinan authentic context and extends over multiple semesters. Several in engineering education havechampioned SLPX and similar programs for providing such an authentic design experience, butno prior studies have investigated how such experiences shape the student’s design knowledge,ability, and identity after graduation. In other words, how do alumni of SLPX make sense oftheir experiences in the program in light of their design experiences in industry? How do theseearly-career engineers understand and enact design from their experiences in SLPX?This paper presents the findings of a thematic analysis related to how alumni connect theirdesign experiences in SLPX to their design experiences in industry. Further, this paper presentsfindings focused on the alumni’s design experience and is part of from a larger embedded,sequential mixed-methods study on the overall alumni experience and the impact of the SLPX. Adiverse range of alumni (n = 27) were purposively sampled from participants of a previoussurvey (n = 528). Our interview protocol was informed by both the survey responses of alumniand the objectives of this larger investigation. We approached the analysis phase of this studywith a rigorous thematic analysis that involved multiple angles and iterations of studying theparticipants’ interview transcripts. Through this analysis, we have seen the design theme to bequite pervasive throughout the participants’ accounts. The alumni communicate transference oftheir design experiences in SLPX to their current practice, albeit to varying degrees and innuanced ways.The objective of this paper, then, is to make visible how authentic design experiences, such asSLPX, affect alumni in their design ability and understanding in their careers. We discuss themultiple and also common ways that alumni understand and enact design because of theirexperiences in SLPX. We organize these findings and present them in detail, grounding them inliterature from design studies and engineering education and extending scholarship in theseareas. Finally, we discuss the implications of our findings for engineering design educators.
Huff, J., & Zoltowski, C. B., & Oakes, W. C., & Adams, R. (2013, June), Making Sense of Design: A Thematic Analysis of Alumni Perspectives Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22268
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