Examining student use of evidence to support design decisions

Jennifer Younker, Ann McKenna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Our efforts have focused on investigating the type of knowledge students use when making decisions in the process of developing design solutions. In particular, we document the type of evidence students provide when presenting various design alternatives, or when they suggest a particular design approach or solution. One major aim of our work is to investigate how flexible students are in applying disciplinary knowledge in the process of design. Specifically, our research seeks to explore the role that computational and analytical abilities play in innovation in the context of engineering design education. We apply the learning framework of adaptive expertise to focus our work and guide the research. Using the adaptive expertise framework, with a specific focus on computational/analytical knowledge, we document the type of evidence students do (or do not) use when selecting possible design alternatives, appropriate models or methods of analysis, and when interpreting the results to justify their decisions. We analyzed student design project reports from different academic years, and from different engineering disciplines. Specifically, our data consists of first-year and capstone design experiences. This comprehensive data set enables us to compare the nature of students' decision making and the type of analytical knowledge used across the undergraduate time span. Results from this research shed light on how students use disciplinary knowledge in the process of design, what students consider to be important technical information for design, and how students make design decisions, sometimes with and without appropriate evidence to support their decisions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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