Exploring the effects of problem framing on solution shifts: A case study

Samuelina M. Wright, Eli M. Silk, Shanna R. Daly, Kathryn W. Jablokow, Seda Yilmaz

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


The way design problems are presented may influence an engineer's ideation process, and eventually, the design outcomes. We aimed to explore the ways in which pre-engineering students shift their design ideas based on different framings of design problems. We evaluated ideas with respect to the metric of paradigm-relatedness, which refers to the extent to which an idea works within the explicitly stated and commonly understood bounds of a problem, versus moves beyond those bounds. Thirteen prospective engineering students participated in the study. Students were first given a problem statement framed in a way that didn't encourage any particular type of solution. The students were asked to generate solutions to the problem using visual and verbal depictions. Subsequently, they were given a second problem framed either to encourage practical solutions based on pre-existing designs or framed to encourage radical solutions not based on pre-existing designs. Ideas were coded as either paradigm-preserving or paradigm-modifying. We identified students whose ideas shifted from more of one type to more of another from their first ideation session to their second, as well as students whose ideas remained consistent. We analyzed their generated idea sets and reflection questionnaires to describe the influence of the framed design problem statements on their ideation approaches. The findings illustrate that problem framing can influence the paradigm-relatedness of ideas generated in a design tasks, both in more adaptive directions and in more innovative directions. However, our findings also illustrate that problem framing is not always successful in causing an individual to shift in their ideation approach, and so additional factors such as individuals' cognitive styles should also be taken into account.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
Volume122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Making Value for Society
Issue number122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Making Value for...
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015
Event2015 122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Seattle, United States
Duration: Jun 14 2015Jun 17 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Engineering


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