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The How People Learn (HPL) framework was used to re-design Introduction to Engineering Design, which is a first-semester required course for every engineering program at Universidad de las AmeÂ¿ricas Puebla. The VaNTH Observation System was used to systematically assess HPL framework implementation in the classroom. Conducting an ethnographic study is an exercise in making visible experiences that get hidden. In this case, our task was to make visible patterns in first-year student experiences with the dominant model of engineering problem solving. Conducting intensive ethnographic research for two semesters at Introduction to Engineering Design classrooms, our team produced 500 pages of transcribed and coded data drawn from biweekly interviews with focus groups, individual interviews, and assorted assignments, journals, projects, quizzes, presentations and lectures. VaNTH Observation System captured differences in EI-100 classroom experiences, which may be used to measure levels of Â¿HPLnessÂ¿ of a lesson. The ethnographic study explored how first-year engineering students interpreted design assignments in terms of the engineering sciences. These first-year students, who had been taught to value the distinction between Â¿scienceÂ¿ and Â¿designÂ¿, tended to resist the engineering design approach to problem solving. Although limited in scope, our study suggests that for the first-year design experience to be successful, we may need to redesign the course.
Date of Conference: 18-21 Oct. 2009