Do Students Want to Dissect? A Survey of Student Opinions on the Use of Product Dissection in the Classroom

Open Access
Riegel, Carolyn
Area of Honors:
Industrial Engineering
Bachelor of Science
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Scarlett Rae Miller, Thesis Supervisor
  • Catherine Mary Harmonosky, Honors Advisor
  • product dissection
  • engineering education
  • motivation in education
  • idea generation
  • modules in education
Product dissection has the ability to create an engaging and active learning environment for engineering students. The purpose of this thesis was to further investigate students’ perceptions on product dissection in the classroom, provide an examination of the usefulness of product dissection for idea generation, and identify how product dissection modules aid in students’ understanding. A study was developed to identify how the design task and instructional materials provided during dissection activities impact student intrinsic motivation and sentiment towards components of the dissection module. This study was implemented in two different section of first year engineering design courses at Penn State. The study had a total of 56 student participants. To analyze students’ perceptions on the use of product dissection modules for ide generation, Wilcoxson Signed Rank Tests, one-way ANOVA, and two-way ANOVA tests were used. The findings of this thesis conclude that students felt that the product dissection module was useful, valuable, and enjoyable and that students had a positive sentiment towards the designed aspects of the dissection module. There was a statistically significant main effect on value for the design task, with students who were tasked with designing a water toy finding the module more valuable than those designing an alarm clock. There were no other significant relationships. Content analysis was used on the post-survey open response questions to better understand students’ motivations behind choosing their dissected product and how useful that product was for idea generation. Through the use of content analysis, areas for improvement in these modules are identified. Specifically, students had a difficult time using their dissected product for idea generation. Therefore, in future iterations, the importance of selecting a product to dissect for idea generation will be made even more clear and reiterated many times.