(329d) The Converging-Diverging Model of Design and Dixon's Taxonomy: Useful Tools for Introducing Students to Design

Authors: 
Dahm, K. - Presenter, Rowan University


Rowan University's Engineering curriculum includes the Sophomore Engineering Clinic, a team-taught two-course sequence intended to teach engineering design and technical communication. Students complete open-ended design projects in lab, supervised by Engineering faculty. The concurrently learn principles of technical communication from Communications faculty; specifically, technical writing in the fall and public speaking in the spring. Most of the graded deliverables in the courses are reports and presentations about the design projects, and are graded jointly by Engineering and Communications faculty. This course provides students with their first exposure to open-ended design challenges. In recent years, the Engineering faculty noted widespread shortcomings in student approaches to their design problems. Most notably, students routinely made significant design decisions without a sound quantitative basis.

This presentation will focus on changes made to the course in an attempt to improve student mastery of design practice. Specifically it will describe two published design models- Dym's Converging-Diverging model for design and Dixon's Taxonomy of students of knowledge- and will outline how these models were integrated into the course. The presentation will also provide an assessment of how the changes led to improvement in student performance, both in the Sophomore Clinic and in the capstone design course.