These K-12 engineering and technology education design process models have similar structures and procedures (Katehi, Pearson, & Feder, 2009). The table below compared the design process models developed for K-12 engineering and technology education. Some models explicitly note that the design process can vary depending on the grade and the subject. Design processes for young students are oftentimes simpler with fewer steps than upper grades. For example, TeachEngineering explained that the fourth-grade’s Introduction to Engineering unit has a partial design process of six steps, while the 9th to 12th graders’ Creative Engineering Design unit consists of the eight steps of full design process model.

Table. A comparison of Design Process Models in K-12 Engineering and Technology Education Programs.

Design stage The Infinity Project (n. d.) TeachEngineering

(n. d.)

ITEEA (2006) EiE (n. d.)
Identify the problem 1.    Identify the problem

2.    Define goals and identify the constraints

1.      Ask: Identify the need & constraints 1.      Clarifying the problem 1.      Identify

2.      Investigate

Research and generate ideas 3.    Research and gather information

4.    Create potential design solution

2.      Research the problem

3.      Imagine: Develop possible solution

2.      Brainstorming ideas 3.      Image
Select a solution 5.    Analyze the viability of solution

6.    Choose the most appropriate solution

4.      Plan: Select a promising solution 3.      Selecting a potential solution 4.      Plan
Build the design product 7.    Build and implement the design 5.      Create: Build a prototype 4.      Modeling and prototyping 5.      Create
Test 8.    Test and evaluate design 6.      Test and evaluate prototype 5.      Testing 6.      Test
Present and improve   7.      Improve: Redesign as needed 6.      Evaluating and refining

7.      Implementing

8.      Communicating results

7.      Improve

8.      Communicate

In practice, the instructional flows of K-12 engineering and technology lessons are closely aligned with their design process model. For instance, an EiE unit Engineering Go Fish: Engineering Prosthetic Tails (EiE, 2016) consists of six lessons, and each lesson is addressed by one or two engineering design stages. The TeachEngineering curriculum also features a similar unit flow. Each unit begins with a design problem, and the units proceed through the corresponding design cycle.

In terms of student learning, the design process models used in K-12 education have the similar structure to the instruction design models. Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction articulated the specific teaching instructions of different classroom event stages (Gagne, Briggs, & Wager, 1992). The juxtaposition of Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction in Figure 1 and 2 shows the models’ similar flows.

Gagné’s instruction model is rooted in the cognitive learning theory (Piaget, 1969) and the information processing theory (Driscoll, 2000). The information processing theory explains the mechanism of learning is similar to the process of information by saying that learning is a cognitive process of information handling between external stimulus and human memory storage. The information processing theory claims that human memory consists of two parts: short-term and long-term storage. This cognitive instruction model suggests that a learning activity involves several internal information processing stages. For example, per the instruction model, the third stage is stimulating recall of prior learning, which is a cognitive strategy to retrieve memory from long-term storage. The design process model in Figure 2 begins with clarifying the problem, which uses a set of cognitive strategies, including problem analysis, memory retrieval, association, and transformation. These cognitive elements produce the design operations of question, declare, suppose, or explain. These design operations help memory retrieval and storage by providing cognitive reinforcement. Once both models provide learners with the appropriate learning environment via cognitive attention, they guide learners to explore and practice their learning. After the learning or problem-solving is accomplished, the models lead learners to assess and their performance.