Student focus and prioritization of design parameters in first-year engineering design projects

Andrea Goncher, Aditya Johri, Wageeh Boles

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperConference paper

Abstract

BACKGROUND Research on engineering design is a core area of concern within engineering education and a fundamental understanding of how engineering students approach and undertake design is necessary in order to develop effective design models and pedagogies. Understanding the factors related to design experiences in education and how they affect student practice can help educators as well as designers to leverage these factors as part of the design process. PURPOSE This study investigated the design practices of first-year engineering students’ and their experiences with a first-year engineering course design project. The research questions that guided the investigation were: 1. From a student perspective, what design parameters or criteria are most important? 2. How does this perspective impact subsequent student design practice throughout the design process? DESIGN/METHOD The authors employed qualitative multi-case study methods (Miles & Huberman, 1994) in order to the answer the research questions. Participant teams were observed and video recorded during team design meetings in which they researched the background for the design problem, brainstormed and sketched possible solutions, as well as built prototypes and final models of their design solutions as part of a course design project. Analysis focused on explanation building (Yin, 2009) and utilized within-case and cross-case analysis (Miles & Huberman, 1994). RESULTS We found that students focused disproportionally on the functional parameter, i.e. the physical implementation of their solution, and the possible/applicable parameter, i.e. a possible and applicable solution that benefited the user, in comparison to other given parameters such as safety and innovativeness. In addition, we found that individual teams focused on the functional and possible/ applicable parameters in early design phases such as brainstorming/ ideation and sketching. When prompted to discuss these non-salient parameters (from the student perspective) in the final design report, student design teams often used a post-hoc justification to support how the final designs fit the parameters that they did not initially consider. CONCLUSIONS This study suggests is that student design teams become fixated on (and consequently prioritize) certain parameters they interpret as important because they feel these parameters were described more explicitly in terms how they were met and assessed. Students fail to consider other parameters, perceived to be less directly assessable, unless prompted to do so. Failure to consider other parameters in the early design phases subsequently affects their approach in design phases as well. Case studies examining students’ study strategies within three Australian Universities illustrate similarities with some student approaches to design.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 24th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education AAEE2013
Place of PublicationQueensland, Australia
PublisherGriffith University
Pages1-8
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Event24th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education: AAEE 2013 - Crowne Plaza Hotel, Gold Coast, Australia
Duration: 08 Dec 201311 Dec 2013
http://www.aaee.net.au/index.php/resources/send/8-2013/313-proceedings-of-the-24th-annual-conference-of-the-australasian-association-for-engineering-education-aaee2013 (Front matter of conference proceedings)

Conference

Conference24th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education
Abbreviated titleWork Integrated Learning – Applying Theory to Practice in Engineering Education
CountryAustralia
CityGold Coast
Period08/12/1311/12/13
Internet address

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    Goncher, A., Johri, A., & Boles, W. (2013). Student focus and prioritization of design parameters in first-year engineering design projects. In Proceedings of the 24th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education AAEE2013 (pp. 1-8). Griffith University. http://www.aaee.net.au/index.php/resources/send/8-2013/221-student-focus-and-prioritisation-of-design-parameters-in-first-year-engineering-design-projects