Campus Units

Industrial Design

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Version

Published Version

Publication Date


Journal or Book Title

2015 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition

Conference Title

122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition

Conference Date

June 14-17, 2015




Exploring the Effects of Problem Framing on Solution Shifts: A Case Analysis Both students in engineering and practicing engineers are continually challenged with new problems to solve. We propose that the way the problem is presented will influence the engineer’s ideation processes, and eventually, the design outcomes. In our previous research, we developed three categories of framings for design problem statements based on Kirton’s Adaption-Innovation theory: (1) neutral framing, (2) adaptive framing, and (3) innovative framing. The neutral framing is intended to leave designers uninfluenced with respect to their natural ideation processes. The adaptive framing offers additional constraints to the problem,encouraging designers to generate practical solutions based on pre-existing designs. The innovative framing is constructed to push designers towards radical solutions that are not based on pre-existing designs. In this paper, we aimed to test to what extent and in what ways students shift their design ideas based on how the design problems were framed.A study was conducted with 36 prospective engineering students participating in a high school summer outreach program at a large Midwestern university. Students were first given a neutrally framed problem statement and asked to generate solutions to the problem using visual and verbal depictions. After this ideation session, they were given either an adaptively or innovatively framed problem statement for a different design problem. Following each ideation session,students were asked to complete a reflection survey to provide some insight into how they perceived their own ideation during the session.We used the concept of paradigm relatedness as our primary lens to explore how students’ ideas were influenced by different problem framings. Paradigm relatedness was defined as the extent to which an idea preserves the focus, assumptions, elements, and relationships associated with the problem definition. Based on these four facets of paradigm relatedness, ideas from the study were coded into one of two general types of paradigm relatedness: paradigm preserving and paradigm modifying. Using the coded results, we analyzed the effect of problem framing on the paradigm relatedness of individual solutions. We identified students whose ideas shifted between paradigm modifying and paradigm preserving when framing changed, as well as students whose ideas remained consistent within one type of paradigm relatedness despite framing changes. We analyzed cases of students of each type, using their generated idea sets and reflection surveys to describe the influence of the framed design problem statements on their ideation approaches.


This is a proceedings from 2015 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, June 14-17, 2015. Posted with permission.


© 2015 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference

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American Society for Engineering Education



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