Identifying design process patterns: a sequential analysis study of design thinking

  • Euisuk Sung
  • Todd R. Kelley


Design is a key element of both the teaching and learning of engineering and technology. However, the process of engineering design has yielded limited research results. This study explored the iterative design process by searching for sequential design thinking patterns. The researchers collected nine concurrent think-aloud protocols from fourth-grade elementary students. The study identified that idea generation plays a central role in design that features the dominant use of time. In addition, the researchers revealed significant pathways in design thinking and built a design pattern model. The results will not only help engineering and technology educators the understanding of design behavior, but also support the harmonious matching of learning and teaching styles in engineering and technology education.


Design process Design iteration Design pattern Protocol analysis Design cognition 



This work was made possible by National Science Foundation Grant (DUE 0962840). Any opinions, and findings expressed in this material are the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.


  1. Allison, P. D., & Liker, J. K. (1982). Analyzing sequential categorical data on dyadic interaction: A comment on Gottman. Psychological Bulletin, 91(2), 393–403. Scholar
  2. Ary, D., Jacobs, L. C., Sorensen, C. K., & Walker, D. (2014). Introduction to research in education. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.Google Scholar
  3. Atman, C. J., Adams, R. S., Cardella, M. E., Turns, J., Mosborg, S., & Saleem, J. (2007). Engineering design process: A comparison of students and expert practitioners. Journal of Engineering Education, 96(4), 359–379. Scholar
  4. Atman, C. J., & Bursic, K. M. (1998). Verbal protocol analysis as a method to document engineering student design processes. Journal of Engineering Education, 87(2), 121–132. Scholar
  5. Bakeman, R., & Brownlee, J. R. (1980). The strategic use of parallel play: A sequential analysis. Child Development, 51(3), 873–878. Scholar
  6. Bakeman, R., & Gottman, J. M. (1986). Observing interaction: An introduction to sequential analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Bakeman, R., & Quera, V. (2011). Sequential analysis and observational methods for the behavioral sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bakeman, R., & Quera, V. (2015). Generalized sequential [Computer software]. Retrieved from Accessed May 2017.
  9. Blount, R. L., Corbin, S. M., Sturges, J. W., Wolfe, V. V., Prater, J. M., & James, L. D. (1989). The relationship between adults’ behavior and child coping and distress during BMA/LP procedures: A sequential analysis. Behavior Therapy, 20(4), 585–601. Scholar
  10. Bousbaci, R. (2008). “Models of Man” in design thinking: The “Bounded Rationality” episode. Design Issues, 24(4), 38–52. Scholar
  11. Bucciarelli, L. L. (2003). Engineering philosophy. Delft: Delft University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Buchanan, R. (1992). Wicked problems in design thinking. Design Issues, 8(2), 5–21. Scholar
  13. Clarkson, J., & Eckert, C. (2004). Design process improvement: A review of current practice. London: Springer.Google Scholar
  14. Creswell, J. W. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  15. Crismond, D. P., & Adams, R. S. (2012). The informed design teaching and learning matrix. Journal of Engineering Education, 101(4), 738–797. Scholar
  16. Cross, N. (2000). Engineering design methods: Strategies for product design. New York, NY: Wiley.Google Scholar
  17. Cross, N. (2004). Expertise in design: An overview. Design Studies, 25(5), 427–441. Scholar
  18. Cross, N. (2008). Engineering design methods: Strategies for product design (4th ed.). Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  19. Dorst, K. (2006). Design problems and design paradoxes. Design Issues, 22(3), 4–17. Scholar
  20. Dorst, K., & Cross, N. (2001). Creativity in the design process: Co-evolution of problem-solution. Design Studies, 22(5), 425–437. Scholar
  21. Dym, C. L., Agogino, A. M., Eris, O., Frey, D. D., & Leifer, L. J. (2005). Engineering design thinking, teaching, and learning. Journal of Engineering Education, 94(1), 103–120. Scholar
  22. Ericsson, K. A., & Simon, H. A. (1993). Protocol analysis: Verbal reports as data. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  23. Felder, R. M., & Silverman, L. K. (1998). Learning and teaching styles in engineering education. Engineering Education, 78(7), 674–681.Google Scholar
  24. Fortus, D., Dershimer, R. C., Krajcik, J., Marx, R. W., & Mamlok-Naaman, R. (2004). Design-based science and student learning. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 41(10), 1081–1110. Scholar
  25. Goel, V., & Pirolli, P. (1992). The structure of design problem spaces. Cognitive Science, 16(3), 395–429. Scholar
  26. Goldschmidt, G. (1991). The dialectics of sketching. Creativity Research Journal, 4(2), 123–143. Scholar
  27. Gottman, J., Markman, H., & Notarius, C. (1977). The topography of marital conflict: A sequential analysis of verbal and nonverbal behavior. Journal of Marriage and the Family. Scholar
  28. Halfin, H. H. (1973). Technology: A process approach. (Doctoral dissertation, West Virginia University) Dissertation Abstracts International, (1) 1111A.Google Scholar
  29. Hill, A. M. (1998). Problem solving in real-life contexts: An alternative for design in technology education. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 8(3), 203–220. Scholar
  30. Hubka, V. (1982). Principles of engineering design. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.Google Scholar
  31. Indiana Department of Education. (2010). Indiana Academic Standards for Science. Retrieved from Accessed May 2017.
  32. International Technology Education Association. (2000/2002/2007). Standards for technological literacy: Content for the study of technology. Reston, VA: Author.Google Scholar
  33. Jeong, A. C. (2003). The sequential analysis of group interaction and critical thinking online. The American Journal of Distance Education, 17(1), 25–43. Scholar
  34. Jin, Y., & Chusilp, P. (2006). Study of mental iteration in different design situations. Design Studies, 27(1), 25–55. Scholar
  35. Justice, L. M., Weber, S. E., Ezell, H. K., & Bakeman, R. (2002). A sequential analysis of children’s responsiveness to parental print references during shared book-reading interactions. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 11(1), 30–40. Scholar
  36. Katehi, L., Pearson, G., & Feder, M. (2009). Engineering in K-12 education: Understanding the status and improving the prospects. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  37. Kelley, T. R. (2010). Design assessment: Consumer reports style. The Technology Teacher, 69(8), 12–16.Google Scholar
  38. Koen, B. V. (2003). Discussion of the method: Conducting the engineer’s approach to problem solving. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Kolodner, J. L. (2002). Facilitating the learning of design practices: Lessons learned from an inquiry into science education. Journal of Industrial Teacher Education, 39(3), 9–40.Google Scholar
  40. Lawson, B. R. (1979). Cognitive strategies in architectural design. Ergonomics, 22(1), 59–68. Scholar
  41. Lawson, B. R., & Dorst, K. (2009). Design expertise. Burlington, MA: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  42. Lewis, T. (2006). Design and inquiry: Bases for an accommodation between science and technology education in the curriculum? Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 43(3), 255–281. Scholar
  43. Locke, K., Golden-Biddle, K., & Feldman, M. S. (2008). Making doubt generative: rethinking the role of doubt in the research process. Organization Science, 19(6), 907–918. Scholar
  44. Mentzer, N., Becker, K., & Sutton, M. (2015). Engineering design thinking: High school students’ performance and knowledge. Journal of Engineering Education, 104(4), 417–432. Scholar
  45. Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: A sourcebook. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  46. Mosborg, S., & Adams, R., & Kim, R., & Cardella, M., & Atman, C., & Turns, J. (2005). Conceptions of the engineering design process: An expert study of advanced practicing professionals. Paper presented at 2005 Annual Conference, Portland, OR. Retrieved from Accessed June 2005.
  47. National Research Council. (2012). A framework for K-12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  48. NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next generation science standards: For states, by states. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  49. Simon, H. A. (1973). The structure of ill-structured problems. Artificial Intelligence, 4, 181–200. Scholar
  50. Tversky, B. (2003). Structures of mental spaces how people think about space. Environment and behavior, 35(1), 66–80.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Tversky, B., & Suwa, M. (2009). Thinking with sketches. In A. Markman & K. Wood (Eds.), Tools for innovation (pp. 75–84). London: Oxford Scholarship Online.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. van der Lugt, R. (2005). How sketching can affect the idea generation process in design group meetings. Design Studies, 26(2), 101–122. Scholar
  53. Welch, M. (1999). Analyzing the tacit strategies of novice designers. Research in Science and Technical Education, 17(1), 19–34. Scholar
  54. Yilmaz, S., & Daly, S. R. (2016). Feedback in concept development: Comparing design disciplines. Design Studies, 45(Part A), 137–158. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Technology Leadership, and InnovationPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

Personalised recommendations