Instructional Science

, Volume 41, Issue 4, pp 773–791 | Cite as

Strategies for success: uncovering what makes students successful in design and learning



While the purposes of design and science are often different, they share some key practices and processes. Design-based science learning, which combines the processes of engineering design with scientific inquiry, is one attempt to engage students in scientific reasoning via solving practical problems. Although research suggests that engaging students in design-based science learning can be effective for learning both science process and content, more research is needed to understand how to overcome what Vattam and Kolodner (Pragmatics and Cognition 16:406–437, 2008) called “the design–science gap.” This study, therefore, takes a first step at systematically delving into this issue of bridging the design–science gap by examining the problem-solving strategies that students are using when they solve a prototypical design task. Videotaped performance assessments of high and low performing teams were analyzed in depth. Results suggest that students use both science reasoning strategies (e.g., control of variables) and design–focused strategies (e.g., adaptive growth). However, the strategies commonly associated with success in science (e.g., control of variables) did not necessarily lead to success in design. In addition, while both science reasoning strategies and design–focused strategies led to content learning, the content learned was different.


Design-based science learning Problem-solving strategies Scientific reasoning 



We would like to thank Birdy Reynolds, Eli Silk, Erin Ward and the lab volunteers for their help with the data collection, as well as the numerous students who participated in this project. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grants EEC-0808675 and DRL-1027629. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Learning and Instruction, School of Education, University of San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Learning Research and Development CenterUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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