engineering, design, cognition, performance


This study investigated the design cognition and performance results of secondary and post-secondary engineering students while engaged in an engineering design task. Relationships between prototype performance and design cognition were highlighted to investigate potential links between cognitive processes and success on engineering design problems. Concurrent think-aloud protocols were collected from eight secondary and 12 post-secondary engineering students working individually to design, make, and evaluate a solution prototype to an engineering design task. The collected protocols were segmented and coded using a pre-established coding scheme. The results were then analyzed to compare the two participant groups and determine the relationships between students’ design cognition, engineering experience level, and design performance. Significant differences between participants with secondary engineering experiences and those without were found in regards to the amount of time various cognitive processes were employed to complete a design task. For the given design scenario, students with secondary engineering experiences achieved significantly higher rubric scores than those without. Improved design performance was also found to be significantly correlated with more time employing the mental processes of analyzing, communicating, designing, interpreting data, predicting, and questioning/hypothesizing. Important links between educational experiences in engineering design, prior to college, and student success on engineering design problems may indicate necessary shifts in student preparation.

Original Publication Citation

Strimel, G. J., Kim, E., Bartholomew, S. R., & Cantu, D. (2018). Examining Engineering Design Cognition with Respect to Student Performance. International Journal of Engineering Education, 34(6), 1910–1929.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL


Journal of Engineering Education




Ira A. Fulton College of Engineering and Technology



University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor