Theories of Development and Engineering Thinking


Credit Hours:


Learning Objective:

1. Summarize and critique theories of learning and development. 2. Propose connections between theories of learning and development and engineering thinking. 3. Apply theories of learning and development to the construction of engineering learning environments. 4. Generate engineering education research questions that are aligned with respective theories of learning and development. 5. Remember the main points of historically important theories of learning and development. 6. Consider how different theories of learning and development might be used as frameworks for your individual research projects (e.g. your dissertation research).


This course is a foundational course in engineering education research. It will delve into the learning theorists and classical research that has shaped the fields of mathematics, science, and engineering education. Students will read original work of the theorists and classical and contemporary research studies that have shaped current ideas about engineering learning and thinking. The focus of the course will be to develop theoretical frameworks related to engineering thinking and to answering the questions: (1) How does learning occur? (2) Which factors influence learning? (3) What is the role of memory? (4) How does transfer occur? (5) How should instruction occur to facilitate learning? It is helpful for students to have engaged in prior reading-and writing- intensive courses that required them to synthesize large amounts of information. For this reason, it is recommended that students are enrolled currently in a graduate program at Purdue University.

Topics Covered:

Foundational learning theorists (Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky, Bruner, Watson, Skinner, Ausubel, and Gagne), engineering design, spatial reasoning, adaptive expertise, modeling, representations, problem solving, metacognition, situated cognition, social theory, identity theory.


None. Restrictions: Must be enrolled in a graduate program.

Applied / Theory:

50 / 50


Construct an annotated bibliography of the readings from the course. Review a dissertation for its theoretical framework and overall structure. Write a theoretical framework based on a research question related to engineering education. Develop an engineering learning activity based on theoretical perspectives. Take chapter quizzes on the APA 6th handbook and an APA 6th practical. Write a reflection paper on the course guiding questions.


Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association 6th ed.

Computer Requirements:

Other Requirements:

Students must register for both distance sections and will need to login live on Thursdays. Please contact the professor for any questions.

ProEd Minimum Requirements: