Student Perceptions and Learning of the Engineering Design Process: An Assessment at the Freshman Level

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Engineering | Engineering Education


An investigation into the impact of a single laboratory session team-based design experience early in the freshman year on student learning of the engineering design process is described. Assessment of the experience focused not only on gains in student perceptions of knowledge of and confidence in applying the engineering design process, but also on actual gains in knowledge, as judged by the investigators based on student written responses. The assessment data showed a significant overall increase in both student knowledge and confidence scores as well as significant individual incremental increases. The gains proved to be in particular significant when compared to those for the entire semester-long course. Design-step logs were used to monitor how students navigated through the engineering design process. While the students were exposed to a simplified linear design process in the lecture component of the class, the design logs indicated a more complex reality. Paths for instructional improvement on the topic of the engineering design process should include a discussion of the potentially complex nature of engineering design and a precise definition of terminology.