Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Design in Engineering Education
Design courses have become an important focus of 'preparation for professional practice' with the shift towards competency-based accreditation of engineering degree programs. However, the bulk of the research published on design projects addresses competencies as they are located within single projects. This paper presents an argument for the need to consider progression across a sequence of projects; an aspect of learning that may be overlooked in investigations of single projects. Although based on the analysis of 17 design projects in three trajectories of design projects, this paper is limited to the presentation of the conceptual model that we developed from the analysis.
Our conceptual model is based on the notion of progression through a trajectory of increasingly complex design projects. We therefore present a means of systematically characterising complexity in design, and provide four example projects as an illustration of the the model.
The study takes a knowledge perspective, and the focus for the study was therefore informed by ABET  outcome (a) "an ability to apply knowledge of mathematics, science, and engineering" (p3). While this outcome is usually considered overemphasized in engineering curricula, there is a growing recognition of the intertwined nature of competencies , , and some reports on engineering education still claim that the application of technical knowledge to solve real industrial problems is the most important, but also the rarest, competency . Social Realism of Sociology of Education  is the theoretical framework followed in this study, a framework that argues for the centrality of knowledge  as the foundation of other important graduate competencies. The semantics dimension of Legitimation Code Theory  provided the conceptual basis for the model.
Based on the conceptual model that we propose we do make some suggestions for structuring sequences of design projects. These suggestions are based on the principles that underpin the conceptual model. They do not claim to prescribe the way that design briefs should be formulated, nor to define how students will engage with the projects. They do however offer ways in which curriculum developers in engineering design might think about progression.
 ABET. Criteria for Accrediting Engineering Programs, 2015–2016. 2014 [online]. Available: http://www.abet.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/E001-15-16-EAC-Criteria-03-10-15.pdf.  D.M. Gilbuena, B.U. Sherrett, E.S. Gummer, A.B. Champagne and M.D. Koretsky, “Feedback on professional skills as enculturation into communities of practice,” Journal of Engineering Education, vol. 104, no. 1, pp. 7-34, 2015  H.J. Passow and C.H. Passow, “What Competencies Should Undergraduate Engineering Programs Emphasize? A Systematic Review”, Journal of Engineering Education, vol. 106, no. 3, pp. 475-526, 2017.  J. King, “Educating Engineers for the 21st Century,” The Royal Academy of Engineering. 2007  R. Moore, R, “Social realism and the problem of the problem of knowledge in the sociology of education,” British Journal of Sociology of Education, vol. 34, no. 3, pp. 333-353.  L. Wheelahan, “Babies and bathwater: Revaluing the role of the academy in knowledge,” in Thinking about Higher Education, P. Gibbs and R. Barnett, Ed. Cham, Switzerland: Springer, 2014, pp. 125-137.  K. Maton, Knowledge and knowers: Towards a realist sociology of education. Oxon: Routledge. 2014
Wolmarans, N., & Case, J. M. (2018, June), Understanding Complexity: A Model for Characterizing a Sequence of Design Projects Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--31173
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