Reflective of current trends in industry, engineering design professionals are expected to have knowledge of 3D modeling software. Responding to this need, engineering curricula seek to effectively prepare students for the workforce by requiring instruction in the use of 3D parametric solid modeling. Recent literature contains many examples that learning this type of software involves three types of knowledge: declarative command knowledge of the software, specific procedural command knowledge of the software, and most importantly for engineering design students, strategic knowledge of the software. Engineering design faculty, to be successful, should seek to implement teaching strategies and instructional practices that promote strategic thinking. However, current assessment of student success is often based on the inspection of the product of the modeling effort rather than the strategic thinking of the student during the construction process. This paper considers the impact of three instructional strategies on first year engineering design students’ strategic thinking when using a 3D parametric modeling software package. Findings appear to suggest that 1) expertly modeling the design construction process may improve student confidence related to using CAD software, but does not impact student ability or proficiency with the software; 2) object construction is more effective at supporting the development of declarative command knowledge related to CAD software than engaging with and completing software tutorials; 3) Engaging with and completing the software tutorials supports the development of procedural command knowledge more effectively than constructing a design object and; 4) constructing a design object supports the development of strategic use of the software more effectively than expertly guided modeled design processes.