Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Engineering Education

Developing Engineering Design Expertise-Part 1: Framing

Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Engineering Education

Developing Engineering Design Expertise-Part 1: Framing

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

There is considerable literature (Koen 1985; Suh 1990; Pahl and Beitz 1995; Cross and Clayburn Cross 1998; French 1999; Kroll, Condoor, and Jansson 2001; Lewis 2006) on the nature of engineering design expertise and the corresponding cognitive skills. Results of previous attempts by the author to develop these cognitive skills in engineering students implied that perhaps only some students were capable of being expert design engineers (Steele and Mann 2011). However, there is also considerable literature on the development of expertise, in any area, through the use of deliberate practice (a focused form of skill development that will be explained more in the prior art section). While there has been some research that focuses on the role of deliberate practice in the development of design expertise, it has focused more on professionals as opposed to the education of students. This article will focus explicitly upon the use of deliberate practice to further develop the engineering design expertise in students.

If both the ability of expert engineering designers and the use of deliberate practice to develop expertise are understood, then the investigation of the use of the latter to develop the former within engineering students would be of benefit. Specifically, it could allow for the more rapid development of expert design engineers. A review of the literature suggests that this type of investigation has not yet been reported upon to a significant degree. Even though some, such as Eder and Hosnedl (2007) and Green (2003), have stated that the reduction of the time taken to develop design expertise is an important goal.

The need for methods to develop engineering design expertise has become more apparent after it has been found that the effects of cultural and economic background on engineering design practice are indeed evident (Newing, Van Der Waal, and Steele 2012; van der Waal, Newing, and Steele 2014), and the skills cannot be assumed adequately developed with experience. Others have also found that there are differences in engineering practice in general between Western (Canadian specifically) and other cultural backgrounds (Friesen and Ingram 2013). Because different environments do produce different engineering skills, it cannot be assumed that good engineering design skills will be developed through experience in industry. Nor can it be assumed that open-ended projects (such as capstone projects) will necessarily develop these skills during education.

It has also been argued that background will influence how students learn engineering design (Eder and Hosnedl 2007) and the challenges faced by the teaching academic (Steele 2012). Therefore, not only would deliberate practice help produce more competent engineers faster, it might become more important as respective student cohorts become more diverse. Issues faced by international students when trying to develop an ability to apply theory from an engineering degree (very much a part of engineering design) have already been found in an Australian context (Banky, Richards, and Blicblau 2011).

Because the development of engineering design skills appear to need deliberate effort for their development, the author has tried to improve the related abilities within students through the use of deliberate practice. This article summarises these efforts to date and the outcome.

Literature on engineering design expertise will first be reviewed. The findings on the role of deliberate practice in developing expertise will then be covered along with literature that relates this to design. Based on this review, the purpose of the article will be argued and a method to achieve this purpose will be presented. Finally, the results of the investigation will be discussed and conclusions drawn on how expertise in design can (or cannot) be developed within engineering students.

2. Prior art

2.1. …

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