• design thinking;
  • project-based learning;
  • cornerstone courses;
  • classroom as laboratory


This paper is based on the premises that the purpose of engineering education is to graduate engineers who can design, and that design thinking is complex. The paper begins by briefly reviewing the history and role of design in the engineering curriculum. Several dimensions of design thinking are then detailed, explaining why design is hard to learn and harder still to teach, and outlining the research available on how well design thinking skills are learned. The currently most-favored pedagogical model for teaching design, project-based learning (PBL), is explored next, along with available assessment data on its success. Two contexts for PBL are emphasized: first-year cornerstone courses and globally dispersed PBL courses. Finally, the paper lists some of the open research questions that must be answered to identify the best pedagogical practices of improving design learning, after which it closes by making recommendations for research aimed at enhancing design learning.