Date of Award

Spring 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Engineering Education

First Advisor

Heath Tims


Engaging pedagogics have been proven to be effective in the promotion of deep learning for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students. In many cases, academic institutions have shown a desire to improve education by implementing more engaging techniques in the classroom. The research framework established in this dissertation has been governed by the axiom that students should obtain a deep understanding of fundamental topics while being motivated to learn through engaging techniques. This research lays a foundation for future analysis and modeling of the curriculum design process where specific educational research questions can be considered using standard techniques. Further, a clear curriculum design process is a key step towards establishing an axiomatic approach for engineering education. A danger is that poor implementation of engaging techniques will counteract the intended effects. Poor implementation might provide students with a "fun" project, but not the desired deep understanding of the fundamental STEM content.

Knowing that proper implementation is essential, this dissertation establishes a model for STEM curriculum design, based on the well-established engineering design process. Using this process as a perspective to model curriculum design allows for a structured approach. Thus, the framework for STEM curriculum design, established here, provides a guided approach for seamless integration of fundamental topics and engaging pedagogics. The main steps, or phases, in engineering design are: Problem Formulation, Solution Generation, Solution Analysis, and Solution Implementation. Layering engineering design with education curriculum theory, this dissertation establishes a clear framework for curriculum design. Through ethnographic engagement by this researcher, several overarching themes are revealed through the creation of curricula using the design process.

The application of the framework to specific curricula was part of this dissertation research. Examples of other STEM curricula using the framework were also presented. Moreover, the framework is presented in such a way that it can be implemented by other educational design teams.