Within the domain of education, the term “critical thinking” is widely understood to mean the various skills that comprise an individual’s logical and reasoning abilities. It is critical that designers possess these abilities so that they can solve the complex problems of an increasingly interconnected world. In order to better understand patterns in engineering students’ critical thinking, this research applies the classifications of the 2001 revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy to 49 reflections written by first-year engineering students on a two-hour design practicum. Reflections were thematically coded to identify when students operated in different levels of the cognitive process and knowledge dimensions. Using k-means clustering analysis, genres of reflection were then determined. Four unique clusters of responses were identified. Notable trends in clusters included application and evaluation of procedural knowledge. Additionally, a difference was observed between the two largest clusters regarding deviance from the design process. While one cluster of responses generally minimized discussion of deviance, the second largest cluster emphasized this deviance, highlighting it as an opportunity for future growth. This work provides insight into how students learn design and how they communicate their learning, providing insight for instructors hoping to encourage deeper critical thinking in design courses.

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