As we critically consider what we mean to accomplish in design teaching and learning, we can start to distinguish between awareness of design practices and processes (i.e., design awareness), intention to engage in design practices and processes in specific ways (i.e., design intention), and subsequent design behavior.
The goal of this paper is to understand engineering student's design intent. We build on a long-term research program in which we have used research results from studies of design expertise to teach about the design process. Specifically, we leverage timeline representations of individuals engaging in a design task to convey design behaviors of designers with various levels of expertise. These representations have been shown to be very effective in promoting student awareness of important aspects of the design process (e.g., the need to spend time problem scoping before engaging in modeling; the need to engage in a broad set of design activities; the need to iterate among design activities). However, awareness about specific elements of design, while important, is not sufficient when it comes to engaging in specific design behaviors. Intent can be seen as an intermediate step between an individual being aware of an action to take, and actually taking that action. We ask: Do students articulate and understand their intentions for changing how they engage with design and if so, how?
In this paper we present findings of what students declare as their intention to engage in a design behavior after they have participated in a classroom exercise. Specifically, 78 students from two different classes in a college of engineering in a large public research-intensive university (50 in a Civil Engineering class, 28 in a Human Centered Design & Engineering class) participated in a classroom activity that took approximately 50 minutes long. After learning about design processes of engineers with various levels of expertise and responding to questions about what they found to be important information, students were asked ‘Will Information from this exercise affect how you will do design in the future? How?’ Student responses were coded using first open coding and then axial coding to further articulate the themes within the responses once they were identified.
Preliminary findings show that students are thinking metacognitively about design by articulating plans, managing time efficiently, monitoring their steps and evaluating their design process. While all students are able to articulate their design intentions, some demonstrate a refined understanding of their design intentions and actionable strategies that could directly impact how they design in the future. In the final paper we will describe these metacognitive plans in more detail, and will investigate if students from the different majors describe different intentions.
This practical classroom activity can be used at the beginning of time intensive design experiences (such as term-long design projects or capstone design courses) to help students develop an awareness of important aspects of the design processes and set intentions for how they will engage in their design projects.
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