Teaching Design Using Multiple Hierarchical Engineering Education Models

Matthew W. Ohland and Joshua D. Summers
General Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, Clemson University, Clemson SC 29634, USA

This work seeks to add to the theoretical underpinnings of design education through the use of hierarchical educational models by Haile and Egan, building on a foundation laid by Vygotsky. We fit commonly used techniques of design education into Haile’s hierarchical model to ensure that a proper foundation is laid before the next level of the structure is built. Relating Haile’s hierarchy of technical understanding to Egan’s general hierarchy of understanding helps anchor the study of technical understanding in the more general context provided by the cognitive sciences. Using this perspective, we gain access to examples of design education from other fields such as music, writing, and art. These examples improve the understanding of design by strengthening the pattern of what design is and by clarifying how engineering design is different from these other examples. Vygotsky divides the reorganization of knowledge into four steps: (1)conceptualization, (2)transference, (3) generalization, and (4) extension. The use of this model of reorganization helps guarantee that learning will proceed from concrete situation to abstraction and then, by extension, can be applied to different concrete situations. Vygotsky’s framework is particularly useful in integrating the perspective of three schools of thought regarding design education identified in previous work by Dym.


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