Asee peer logo

Methods for Assessing Epistemic Identities: Student Representations of Design and Engineering Practice

Download Paper |


2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Student Learning, Problem Solving, & Critical Thinking 1

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.902.1 - 24.902.11



Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Micah Lande Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus

visit author page

Dr. Micah Lande teaches human-centered design innovation at Arizona State University and researches how engineers learn and apply a design process to their work. He is an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering on Arizona State University's Polytechnic campus.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Methods  for  Assessing  Epistemic  Identities:   Student  Representations  of  Design  and  Engineering  Practice   (Paper Type: Research) Traditionally, engineering design is taught as a tool for synthesis and integration ofengineering content knowledge for students in capstone courses. These engineering designcourses are usually successful, in that the students do well, they come up with innovativesolutions, and they are satisfied with their school experience and feel ready for the real world.But, what is the evidence that students have actually learned and can apply their design andengineering learning successfully for synthesis and integration? What are the student’s ownunderstandings of the design process and engineering design practice? How might they conceiveof their own engineering and design epistemic identities? This work investigates these questions. Evidence of how design and engineering activities change over time as well as how first-year Master’s students in Mechanical Engineering conceptualize design and engineering willcome from a project-based learning design course. Students were queried at the beginning,middle and end of the course for 1) concept map of their typical design process, and 2)representations of what a designer and an engineer do at work, and 3) conceptions of engineeringand design. Items were given out in survey form and participants answered questions by hand.Approximately 30 questionnaires were collected at each stage. Students were asked to draw their “typical design process.” Models of design areprevalent in textbooks and literature. Once in action though, design practitioners often synthesizeand adapt their own experiences and learning into a mental model of their design process. Studyof novice and expert designers have generated insight into these. By asking students to drawtheir typical design process it was hoped that the authors could approximate the students’ mentalmodel. For many years researchers have used the Draw-A-Scientist Test to get at students’perceptions of that field. Based on recent work developing a Draw-an-Engineer Test this paperextends the subject areas to include designers and engineers. Students were asked to draw adesigner and to draw an engineer at work and define the tasks and roles that designers andengineers undertake. Their representations of design and engineering were coded according tokey words in their descriptions and items shown in the drawing. Initial findings from qualitative content analysis indicate that the concept maps of designprocess mature over time along a consistent learning trajectory. Students also have distinct butcomplimentary models of the roles of a designer and engineer along two emerging themes: ideageneration vs. idea implementation and human-centered design vs. technology-centered. Thiswork highlights some paired examples of student drawings along with an assessment of theconcept maps of their design process before and after a class experience. It is insightful to get atstudents conceptualizations and perceptions of design. Do perceptions change over time? Is this afeasible way to get at students’ understandings? It is hoped that this analysis can influence howstudents are taught and assessed.

Lande, M. (2014, June), Methods for Assessing Epistemic Identities: Student Representations of Design and Engineering Practice Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--22835

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: © 2014 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