Contextual constraining of student design practices

Goncher, Andrea & Johri, Aditya (2015) Contextual constraining of student design practices. Journal of Engineering Education, 104(3), pp. 252-278.

View at publisher



Engineering design is of significant interest to engineering educators. As yet, how the higher education context shapes student outcomes in engineering design courses remains underexplored. Since design courses are the primary way students are taught the critical topic of design, it is important to understand how the institutional and organizational contexts shape student outcomes and how we could improve design projects, given the context.


We sought to answer two questions: What aspects of the design education process are salient, or important, for students? How do these salient aspects affect their design practices?


We used a qualitative case study approach to address the research questions because of our emphasis on understanding process-related aspects of design work and developing an interpretive understanding from the students’ perspective.


Using a nested structuration framework, we show that the context of design practices shaped students’ outcomes by constraining their approach to the project and by providing a framework for their design process. We provide recommendations for design educators to help students overcome impediments to achieving learning objectives for design activities. Our research questions the efficacy of teaching engineering design when a design problem lacks a context beyond the classroom.


The institutional and organizational contexts influence student design practices. Engineering educators should carefully consider the potential effects of the design projects they implement within a higher education context.

Impact and interest:

2 citations in Scopus
Search Google Scholar™
1 citations in Web of Science®

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

9 since deposited on 28 Jul 2015
4 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 86059
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: engineering design education, nested structuration theory, qualitative case study, HERN
DOI: 10.1002/jee.20079
ISSN: 2168-9830
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > ENGINEERING (090000) > OTHER ENGINEERING (099900) > Engineering not elsewhere classified (099999)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > OTHER EDUCATION (139900) > Education not elsewhere classified (139999)
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2015 ASEE
Copyright Statement: This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Goncher, A. and Johri, A. (2015), Contextual Constraining of Student Design Practices. Journal of Engineering Education, 104: 252–278, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.
Deposited On: 28 Jul 2015 22:41
Last Modified: 09 Aug 2016 13:22

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page