Studying changes using concept maps in first year students' understanding of the engineering design process

Haolin Zhu, Tirupalavanam G. Ganesh, Connor Sonnier

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


This Complete Evidence-Based Practice paper investigates how first year students' understanding of the engineering design process changes in a design-based Introduction to Engineering course. This fifteen-week two-credit course introduces the engineering design process and provides students with opportunities to practice applying the engineering design process. Students were engaged in a two-week conceptual team design challenge and a ten-week hands-on team design project. In two sections of this course taught in the Fall 2018 semester with approximately 38 students each, students individually created visual representations in the form of concept maps to show their understanding of the engineering design process three times during the semester, once before the course started, once after the two-week design challenge and once at the end of the semester after the ten-week design project. Qualitative research methods were used to analyze these concept maps. Two researchers identified themes as a theoretical framework and independently coded the data based on the themes, compared and discussed discrepancies until agreement was reached to ensure inter-rater reliability. Thematic analysis of the data shows that there is no difference in students' understanding at the start of this course regardless of whether they had prior knowledge and experiences about engineering design or not. Data shows that through this course, the two-week design challenge in particular, students' understanding of the design process in all aspects has greatly improved; and students' understanding was further improved after the ten-week design challenge in areas of 'customer involvement throughout the design process', 'research/information gathering', 'model/analysis', and the 'iterative characteristic' of the design process. A weakness that was found in students' understanding at the end of the course is that most of them were only able to identify one type of information, i.e., existing solutions, for the 'research/information gathering' phase of the design process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - Jun 15 2019
Event126th ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Charged Up for the Next 125 Years, ASEE 2019 - Tampa, United States
Duration: Jun 15 2019Jun 19 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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