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A meta-synthesis of primary and secondary student design cognition research

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Abstract and Figures

Design within primary and secondary schools has been increasingly emphasized over the past decade. As a response to this increased interest, qualitative research examining students’ cognitive processes involved in the practices of design has been on the rise. These studies have commonly employed the concurrent think-aloud research methodology to examine and describe an individual’s or group’s thought processes while engaged in a design task. However, the variety of coding schemes used to code and describe the collected think-aloud data has limited the synthesis of findings across design cognition studies, which can be a concern as the synthesis of qualitative studies can potentially lead to the development of more formal and possibly more generalizable theories (Glaser and Strauss in Status passage, Aldine, Chicago, 1971). Nevertheless, a study conducted by Grubbs, Strimel, and Kim (2018) examined the different coding schemes used in analyzing the design cognition of primary and secondary students that were published between 1995 and 2016. Their investigation led to the identification of three distinct themes for the foundation and intent of the various design cognition coding schemes and provided a basis for a more informed meta-synthesis of design cognition research. Therefore, this study examined the design cognition studies identified by Grubbs et al. (2018) and synthesized both the findings and discussions of each, according to the three coding scheme themes. The results of this investigation can provide deeper insights into primary and secondary students’ design thinking and can help inform design pedagogy.
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International Journal of Technology and Design Education (2020) 30:243–274
1 3
A meta‑synthesis ofprimary andsecondary student design
cognition research
GregJ.Strimel1 · EunhyeKim2· MichaelE.Grubbs3· TannerJ.Human4
Accepted: 6 February 2019 / Published online: 12 February 2019
© Springer Nature B.V. 2019
Design within primary and secondary schools has been increasingly emphasized over the
past decade. As a response to this increased interest, qualitative research examining stu-
dents’ cognitive processes involved in the practices of design has been on the rise. These
studies have commonly employed the concurrent think-aloud research methodology to
examine and describe an individual’s or group’s thought processes while engaged in a
design task. However, the variety of coding schemes used to code and describe the col-
lected think-aloud data has limited the synthesis of findings across design cognition stud-
ies, which can be a concern as the synthesis of qualitative studies can potentially lead to the
development of more formal and possibly more generalizable theories (Glaser and Strauss
in Status passage, Aldine, Chicago, 1971). Nevertheless, a study conducted by Grubbs,
Strimel, and Kim (2018) examined the different coding schemes used in analyzing the
design cognition of primary and secondary students that were published between 1995 and
2016. Their investigation led to the identification of three distinct themes for the foundation
and intent of the various design cognition coding schemes and provided a basis for a more
informed meta-synthesis of design cognition research. Therefore, this study examined the
design cognition studies identified by Grubbs etal. (2018) and synthesized both the find-
ings and discussions of each, according to the three coding scheme themes. The results of
this investigation can provide deeper insights into primary and secondary students’ design
thinking and can help inform design pedagogy.
Keywords Design· Design cognition· Think-aloud protocols· Engineering education·
Technology education
* Greg J. Strimel
1 Department ofTechnology Leadership andInnovation, Purdue University, WestLafayette, IN,
2 School ofEngineering Education, Purdue University, WestLafayette, IN, USA
3 Career andTechnology Education, Baltimore County Public Schools, Towson, MD, USA
4 Department ofIntegrative STEM Education, The College ofNew Jersey, EwingTownship, NJ,
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... This challenge provides problems for both students and teachers in overcoming fixation and ensuring the correct guidance and support during the design process. Strimel et al. (2020) undertook an investigation into design cognition research to integrate the findings from multiple studies to develop more formal and generalised theories that would provide deeper and more powerful understandings of student design thinking to bridge the gap between research and practice. Findings identify problematic traits of studying design such as the context of the study, the design task itself and the coding schemes using to interpret findings. ...
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... Design thinking comprises the stages of empathising, defining, ideating, prototyping, and testing (Cross 2011). Rather than merely being an integral part of the process in engineering and technology design, STEM education researchers consider design thinking as a general cognitive process that can take place in many different fields (Razzouk and Shute 2012), and such a mentality has to be nurtured for every student (Strimel et al. 2018(Strimel et al. , 2019. Similarly, computational thinking (Wing 2006), originally a concept in the Computer Science field, represents an imperative thinking skill set that everyone should master: abstraction and decomposition, thinking recursively, problem reduction and transformation, error prevention and protection, and heuristic reasoning which are needed to solve universal complex problems. ...
STEM education has taken on high importance in Hong Kong K-12 education landscape. Despite policy advocacy and curriculum endeavour, the quality of STEM education varies significantly between schools. Research literature indicates that high-quality STEM education requires teachers’ rigorous delivery of topics and appropriate pedagogies, and one approach to improve such practices is teacher professional development (TPD). However, because current research on TPD has not given explicit consideration to the complex nature of STEM education, there remains a lack of a clear blueprint of how TPD should be conducted to build teachers’ capacity for STEM education effectively. This paper presents a case study that explores the necessary attributes and identifies the missing links of STEM education TPD by understanding how various TPD models supported a Hong Kong K-12 school embracing STEM education. Qualitative data collection methods, including semi-structured interviews and classroom observations, were employed to draw a picture of TPD implementations in the selected school. The findings suggest that, at the macro-level, effective STEM TPD should not stop at employing mixed use of TPD models; the models have to be integrated organically with respect to a school-based STEM curriculum implementation approach. A collaborative culture between teachers must be cultivated for effective inter-disciplinary integration. Collaborative action research should also be promoted to develop collective wisdom of STEM pedagogies. At the micro-level, TPACK and cross-disciplinary integration skills need to be focusing areas of STEM TPD. With these guiding principles, some possible strategies for effective STEM education TPD are suggested.
... Research on students' design thinking strategies and cognitive processes while engaging in the design practices has been increasing to provide deeper insights into student design cognition (Strimel et al. 2020). This research seeks to better understand high school science and engineering technology students' design capabilities and cognitive processes after experiencing science and engineering shared practices. ...
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... It is suggested that the genesis and development of design can be captured through the concepts of Design narrative, Designerly play, Collective design, Design motive, and Dialectics in Design for the under fives. These terms give more meaning to the purpose of design (Benson & Treleven, 2011), design competence (Hope, 2005), and contribute to the design matrices of older children/students (Crismond & Adams, 2012;Strimel et al., 2020). In so doing, the findings advance scholarship by going beyond learning about design and learning through design to learning design in play for children under five. ...
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... Design sketching is such an important component of so many integrated STEM activities, that it cannot be left to "chance". Students need to know and appreciate how design sketching contributes to a STEM investigation, including its key role in communicating and refining ideas, and in developing prototypes for testing and development (Kelley, 2017;Strimel, Kim, Grubbs, & Huffman, 2020). In the absence of specific instruction, students' design sketches displayed some of the "fundamentals" of design sketching, including labelling, annotating, and incorporating multiple views (Kelley, 2017), illustrating elementary students' design capabilities. ...
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... R. Kelley & Knowles, 2016). Design thinking is not only attributed to professional engineering and in designing of school education framework but also believed to be a generalized cognitive progression with creativity, experimental data, feedback data and redesigning, covering different fields of studies (Ahmed et al., 2003;Strimel, Kim, Grubbs, & Huffman, 2019). ...
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The core subjects in P-12 education have a common key characteristic that makes them stable over time. That characteristic is a steady content. For example, in the sciences, the basics of biology remain the same—the cell is the basic building block around which organisms are defined, characterized, structured, etc. Similarly, the basics of physics and chemistry are relatively constant, with incremental increases in understanding adding to those basics when impacted by new discoveries over time. The same case can be made for mathematics, whose basic content has been unchanged for centuries and only expanded upon as old theories make way for new. In the same sense, the content of language arts has remained relatively constant over time. As a result, these subjects have maintained their relevancy in P-12 schooling as core knowledge all students should acquire.
STEM Integration in K-12 Education examines current efforts to connect the STEM disciplines in K-12 education. This report identifies and characterizes existing approaches to integrated STEM education, both in formal and after- and out-of-school settings. The report reviews the evidence for the impact of integrated approaches on various student outcomes, and it proposes a set of priority research questions to advance the understanding of integrated STEM education. STEM Integration in K-12 Education proposes a framework to provide a common perspective and vocabulary for researchers, practitioners, and others to identify, discuss, and investigate specific integrated STEM initiatives within the K-12 education system of the United States. STEM Integration in K-12 Education makes recommendations for designers of integrated STEM experiences, assessment developers, and researchers to design and document effective integrated STEM education. This report will help to further their work and improve the chances that some forms of integrated STEM education will make a positive difference in student learning and interest and other valued outcomes. © 2014 by the National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.