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Student Perspectives of Engineering Design Education

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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

Design Cognition III

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1189.1 - 25.1189.9



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Paper Authors


Richard J. Aleong Queen's University

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Richard Aleong is a master's of applied science candidate in the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. His research interests are in engineering design, qualitative research methodology, and teaching and learning in higher education.

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David S. Strong Queen's University

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David Strong joined Queen’s as the NSERC Chair in Design Engineering in March 2003 and is currently in his second term as Chair. In this faculty-wide appointment, his goal is to enhance student’s engineering design and professional skills by working collaboratively on educational initiatives with all engineering departments. One of his key initiatives was the introduction of an elective “Multidisciplinary Design Stream,” in which students participate in a series of courses and industry sponsored projects that build significant and relevant skills to foster creativity and innovation in their future careers. Strong has received multiple awards for teaching and student support, most recently as the recipient of the 2010 Alumni Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Prior to his appointment at Queen's, Strong spent over two decades in the private sector in engineering and management. His experience spans three different areas: the primary aluminum industry, biomedical and biotechnology instrumentation, and high volume consumer products. Strong holds patents in broad areas of practice and has led award winning design teams, one of which received a Gold Medal in the Invention Category of the Canada Awards for Business Excellence. Throughout his career in industry, Strong played an active role in supporting engineering education at Queen's through sponsorship and mentoring of undergraduate and graduate projects. He was a member of the Queen's University Engineering Advisory Council prior to his appointment at Queen’s. Strong’s research areas include engineering education, design optimization, and applied research and development activities in partnership with industry.

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Student Perspectives of Engineering Design EducationIt is widely recognized by industry and academia that design is the central creative activity in theengineering profession. Contemporary research literature in engineering education identifies theneed for design education to prepare holistic engineers with the knowledge, skills, and attitudesto innovate and compete globally. Engineering accreditation boards in both the United Statesand Canada recognize the importance of design in their use of an outcomes-based approach toengineering accreditation. To meet these interests from industry and academia, and to enhancethe development of future engineering students, it is important to advance the teaching andlearning of engineering design. This paper will present a preliminary analysis of research onstudents’ conceptions of engineering design to provide insight for curriculum development andinstructional practice.The field of educational psychology provides the background in the learning sciences forunderstanding how students think and learn. By applying the science of learning, engineeringeducators can effectively design educational systems to support learning. One concept fromlearning theory posits that educators can enhance learning by activating students’ priorknowledge and their cognitive organization of knowledge. Furthermore, research has shown theimportance of understanding students’ beliefs, perceptions, and motivation, as these constructswill influence their approach to learning. Beyond the classroom, the motivational values ofengineering students have been studied to reveal factors affecting student enrollment andpersistence in engineering. These examples emphasize the importance of considering bothcognitive and affective learning domains when designing teaching strategies and learningenvironments. Is design education being implemented effectively by integrating more designcourses throughout the undergraduate curriculum? While this is an important step, students maynot benefit from additional training unless their underlying perceptions and attitudes towardslearning design are aligned with the overarching learning objectives. Adding more designcourses may influence the cognitive domain of learning, but do students truly understand designeducation? That is, what meaning do students place on design in their engineering education andhow is this meaning described?This paper serves to provide insight into these questions by providing an understanding of designfrom the engineering student perspective. A one-time online questionnaire is in the process ofbeing distributed to first, third, and fourth year undergraduate engineering students at threeCanadian institutions. In the questionnaire, students are asked to reflect on their experiences oflearning and practicing design and describe what engineering means to them. The studentresponses from this questionnaire will be qualitatively analyzed to generate themes of meaningfrom the students’ descriptions. The results from this analysis will be reported in this paper anda preliminary analysis of follow-up personal interviews will also be discussed. With anunderstanding of how students learn and think about design, engineering educators may be betterprepared to optimize curriculum development and instructional practice.

Aleong, R. J., & Strong, D. S. (2012, June), Student Perspectives of Engineering Design Education Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21946

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