jim7-16.1 Dr. Jim Borgford-Parnell is Associate Director and Instructional Consultant at the Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching (CELT) in the College of Engineering at the University of Washington. He has over three decades of experience as a professional designer and furniture maker. He taught furniture design, design drawing, education research methods, and adult and higher education theory and pedagogy courses for over 25 years. He has been involved in instructional development for 15 years, and currently does both research and instructional development in engineering education. He has shown his furniture in galleries and has published and presented on engineering design, engineering pedagogies, and instructional development topics.



  Dr. Katherine Deibel is a research consultant at the Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching at the University of Washington. She earned her PhD in Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Washington with a focus on assistive and educational technologies. Her research interests include supporting the effective usage of technology in learning, disability and education, and alternative and digital literacy practices.

  Dr. Cynthia J. Atman (Cindy) is the founding director of the Center for Engineering Learning & Teaching (CELT), a professor in Human Centered Design & Engineering, and the inaugural holder of the Mitchell T. & Lella Blanche Bowie Endowed Chair at the University of Washington. She was director of the NSF-funded Center for the Advancement of Engineering Education (CAEE), a national research center that was funded from 2003-2010. Dr. Atman joined the UW in 1998 after seven years on the faculty at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research focuses on engineering education pedagogy, engineering design learning, assessing the consideration of context in engineering design, and understanding undergraduate engineering student pathways. She is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE). She was the recipient of the 2002 ASEE Chester F. Carlson Award for Innovation in Engineering Education and the 2009 UW David B. Thorud Leadership Award. Dr. Atman holds a Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.


Dr. Jim Borgford-Parnell 


What first got you interested in engineering practice?

  It depends on which one of us you are asking. J I (Jim) have been involved in design practice for 33 years now, and design pedagogy for almost that long. It wasn't until 2005 when Cindy (Dr. Atman) hired me to do the instructional development work at CELT and to join her design research team that I became interested in researching engineering practice. Cindy has been studying engineering design processes for almost two decades now, with a goal of improving how design is taught and learned in engineering education. Her research is unique, in that she and her collaborators have compiled a large set of engineering design process data that continues to provide a rich basis for inquiry. One of the really interesting ways that she has used that dataset is to develop design process timelines (discussed in our chapter) and other types of representations, and It was in an effort to extend the representations work that Kate (our data wizard) became involved in engineering design practice research.

  Cindy here...thanks Jim! Jim is right – I started to conduct research on engineering design processes in the early 1990's. The goal of my research is to understand how engineers do design – with the overarching objective of figuring out how best to teach engineering students to do design. For me the most motivating part of our research is helping engineering students learn about the problem scoping and information gathering parts of the design process – the aspects of the design process where understanding the context of the design problem is important. Jim has been leading the effort to bring our design process research into classroom learning activities – and the engineering student learning that we see that can take place in an activity that takes only about an hour is amazing.


Why did you begin researching the topic of your chapter? Was it chance/grand plan/ colleague's recommendation ...?

  We first began discussing the topic of our chapter when we were all working on a related study for the Design Thinking Research Symposium 7 (DTRS7), in 2009. In that earlier study we made and analyzed design representations to develop insight into how a team of engineering designers considered contextual factors in their design process. The topic had continued to bubble up in our conversations since that time, but it wasn't until Bill Williams invited us to write a chapter for this book that we did the necessary data analysis.

Cindy again...Doing research on how design is actually done in practice is an important part of understanding what we should be teaching our students – so the research we did for this chapter is a natural part of our research program (see some citations in our chapter on our work comparing student and practicing professionals engineering processes). When Janet McDonnell, Peter Lloyd and colleagues organized the DTRS7 meetings – it was a terrific opportunity for us to analyze some design data from practicing engineers that was also being analyzed by colleagues around the globe. That is what led to the work we present in this chapter. So, it was part of our grand plan and serendipitous at the same time.


What challenges did you encounter when working on this chapter?

  There really weren't many challenges as I recall. Other than the typical and on-going problem of having too many things competing for your time this has been a smooth process. Bill did an excellent job of communicating expectations and deadlines and of helping the chapter authors to maintain an awareness of what everyone else was writing.

  Cindy adding a challenge or two...As we were conducting the original research for the DTRS7 conference and related book, it was a challenge to figure out where to draw the line (meaning to decide what research to include in the book that resulted from the conference: http://design.open.ac.uk/dtrs7/index.htm). Having the opportunity to contribute to this current book provided us with a venue and motivation to finalize the analyses that we did not have room to put in the DTRS7 chapter. Another challenge, though a fun one, was to decide what graphics to use to display our data. Jim mentioned that Kate is a data wizard. She is also a visualization wizard. That means that we considered lots of options for the graphics we included in the chapter. We hope that you find the ones that we chose to be effective.


What aspect gives you the most satisfaction now?

  I think the aspect of this book that I find most satisfying is how well the chapters relate to each other. This isn't just a compilation of manuscripts that relate to engineering practice, it is a compilation of manuscripts that relate to each other. That's pretty neat. Cindy says "ditto". It is great to see the conversations that occurred in our initial meeting coming together into a final product.


What advice would you give to someone beginning to get interested in engineering practice(s) research?

  If you focus your research on engineering practice, then you are ultimately focused on solving the many challenges that vex humankind, and that is a worthwhile way to spend your time – don't you think? Also, pick good collaborators and read this book. Cindy adds: can't say it better than that : )