This work in progress paper focuses on a study to investigate how senior capstone design students use metacognition and epistemic cognition to determine the reasonableness of solutions presented by their teams. There is significant research that points to the importance of understanding how epistemic cognition and metacognition play a role in problem solving. More recent research has begun to point to the need to study epistemic cognition and metacognition together, as metacognition and epistemic cognition may develop in a similar developmental progression. Specifically, metacognition may lead to skill development in well-structured problem solving and epistemic cognition may lead to skill development in ill-structured problem solving. As undergraduate engineering curricula are built upon both well-structured and ill-structured problem solving, it is critical that the field of engineering education begin to study in-depth the impact that both metacognition and epistemic cognition have on the development of the engineering mindset. Senior capstone design is a primary opportunity where engineering students begin to translate the skills they have developed in courses that focus on well-structured problems to situations with ill-structured problems.
This research study focuses on understanding how students use metacognition and epistemic cognition to justify the reasonableness of their solutions in senior design, both internally (to other team members) as well as externally (to advisors, industry representatives, and customers). Participants of the study include civil engineering students enrolled in a senior capstone design course at a large, public, R1 institution in the southeast.
This work in progress will discuss the early stages of development of this research study, which includes the design of an ethnographically informed research methodology using participant observations, ethnographic interviews, and stimulated recall interviews. These methodological selections will be justified based on the challenges associated with studying metacognition and epistemic cognition in a situated context. The paper will conclude with a summary of data collected for the pilot study as well as next steps for the full study.
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