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ERIC Number: ED538906
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 33
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
PLTW and Epics-High: Curriculum Comparisons to Support Problem Solving in the Context of Engineering Design. Research in Engineering and Technology Education
Kelley, Todd; Brenner, Daniel C.; Pieper, Jon T.
National Center for Engineering and Technology Education
A comparative study was conducted to compare two approaches to engineering design curriculum between different schools (inter-school) and between two curricular approaches, "Project Lead the Way" (PLTW) and "Engineering Projects in Community Service" (EPIC High) (inter-curricular). The researchers collected curriculum materials, including handouts, lesson plans, guides, presentation files, design descriptions, problem statements, and support guides. The researchers conducted observations in the classrooms to collect qualitative indicators of engineering/technology reasoning, collect data on the nature of students' questions, how students define problems, and operate within the constraints of a design problem. Observational studies were conducted with students participating in "Project Lead the Way" and with students participating in "Engineering Projects in Community Service" (EPICS). Study participants were asked to work through an ill-defined problem, in this case the problem of creating a new playground for an elementary school. The data from these protocols were analyzed using a coding process; a list of universal technical mental processes (Halfin, 1973) and a computer program OPTEMP (Hill, 1997) to record frequency and time of each mental process employed by the students. The data were used to identify common cognitive strategies employed by the students and to determine where students placed greatest emphasis during the observation period. General findings indicated that participants in the "EPICS-High" program were in general more solution-driven problem solvers, while the "Project Lead the Way" participants were generally problem-driven as defined by Kruger & Cross (2006). Although the participants in both groups had completed advanced courses in mathematics; mathematics was rarely employed (less than 3%) to describe constraints of the problem or predict results of proposed solutions. Over half of the students became fixated at some point on the provided picture. (Smith, Ward, & Schumacher, 1993). This study provides important insight about how students solve ill-defined problems, providing vital information for technology education as it seeks to implement engineering design. Appended are: (1) Test Session Participant Instructions; (2) Transfer Problem; (3) Merriam's Observational Element Guidelines; (4) The Cognitive Processes identified by Halfin's 1973 Dissertation Study; (5) Research Poster; (6) Teacher Follow-up Questions; and (7) Teacher Follow-up Responses. A bibliography is included. (Contains 4 figures and 8 tables.)
National Center for Engineering and Technology Education. c/o Department of Engineering Education Utah State University, 4160 Old Main Hill, Logan, UT 84322. Tel: 435-797-0213; Fax: 435-797-2567; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research; Tests/Questionnaires
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education; High Schools; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Science Foundation
Authoring Institution: National Center for Engineering and Technology Education (NCETE)
Identifiers - Location: Indiana