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ERIC Number: EJ965338
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 19
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-1045-1064
Experts vs. Novices: Differences in How Mental Representations Are Used in Engineering Design
Dixon, Raymond A.; Johnson, Scott D.
Journal of Technology Education, v23 n1 p47-65 Fall 2011
This study investigated the mental representations of student and professional engineers while they solved an engineering design problem. The intent was to gain a deeper insight into the differences that exist in the cognitive processes of engineering students and professional engineers as they use mental representations (i.e., propositions, metaphors, and analogies) to solve the engineering design problem. A comparative case study of engineering students and practicing engineers was conducted. A purposeful, maximum variation sampling process was used. Maximum variation sampling, a special type of purposeful sampling, entails the "selecting of cases that illustrate the range of variation in the phenomena to be studied". The results of this study paint a picture of how four professional engineers differ from six engineering students in their use of mental representations on a conceptual engineering design task. Three major conclusions are drawn from the findings: (1) The use of mental representations, such as propositions, analogies, and metaphors, in the different mental spaces is important in engineering design; (2) Different from novices, experts rarely employed propositions or analogies in their problem space; and (3) Expert engineering designers differ from novice engineering designers on their use of within-domain analogies, between-domain analogies, heuristics, and formulas. (Contains 8 figures and 1 table.)
Journal of Technology Education. Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A