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Svihla, Petrosino Diller (2012) Learning to Design

Svihla, Petrosino Diller (2012) Learning to Design

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Published by ajpetrosino
Engineering design is a collaborative and complex process, and our understanding of how to support student teams in learning to design remains limited. By considering in-situ student design teams in a capstone biomedical engineering course, we are afforded the opportunity to contrast two versions of a non-sponsored project, then consider expert perceptions of their later sponsored designs. Data from two cohorts of the course yield compelling contrasts for authentic design learning experiences. We found that a non-sponsored redesign project led students to values customer needs and to use them to define the design problem, whereas in a kit-based version this did not occur. We also found that greater perceived opportunities to negotiate one’s understanding within a team predicted more innovative team designs.

International Journal of Engineering Education Vol. 28, No. 4, pp. 1–17, 2012
Engineering design is a collaborative and complex process, and our understanding of how to support student teams in learning to design remains limited. By considering in-situ student design teams in a capstone biomedical engineering course, we are afforded the opportunity to contrast two versions of a non-sponsored project, then consider expert perceptions of their later sponsored designs. Data from two cohorts of the course yield compelling contrasts for authentic design learning experiences. We found that a non-sponsored redesign project led students to values customer needs and to use them to define the design problem, whereas in a kit-based version this did not occur. We also found that greater perceived opportunities to negotiate one’s understanding within a team predicted more innovative team designs.

International Journal of Engineering Education Vol. 28, No. 4, pp. 1–17, 2012

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Learning to Design: Authenticity, Negotiation,and Innovation*
VANESSA SVIHLA
1
, ANTHONY J. PETROSINO
2
and KENNETH R. DILLER
3
1
The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM 87131. E-mail: vsvihla@unm.edu
2
The University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station D5700, Austin, TX 78712. E-mail: ajpetrosino@mail.utexas.edu
3
The University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station D5700, Austin, TX 78712. E-mail: kdiller@mail.utexas.edu
Engineering design is a collaborative and complex process, and our understanding of how to support student teams inlearning to design remains limited. By considering in-situ student design teams in a capstone biomedical engineeringcourse, we are a
ff 
orded the opportunity to contrast two versions of a non-sponsored project, then consider expertperceptionsoftheirlatersponsoreddesigns.Datafromtwocohortsofthecourseyieldcompellingcontrastsforauthenticdesignlearningexperiences.Wefoundthatanon-sponsoredredesignprojectledstudentstovaluescustomerneedsandtouse them to define the design problem, whereas in a kit-based version this did not occur. We also found that greaterperceived opportunities to negotiate one’s understanding within a team predicted more innovative team designs.
Keywords:
engineering design; innovation; expertise
1. Introduction
In Educating the Engineer of 2020, a report for theNational Academy of Engineering, the neededattributesofengineersofthenearfutureareentailedasfollows:engineersneedtopossessstronganalyticskills, practical ingenuity, creativity, communica-tion, businessand management skills, professional-ism, leadership, high ethical standards, and belifelong learners [1]. Furthermore, they will need‘something that cannot be described in a singleword. It involves dynamism, agility, resilience, andflexibility’ (p. 56). We view design activity to be acontext in which many of these characteristics areparticularly needed, and thus see design activity asintegral to engineering education. We present dataand analysis from two cohorts of a universitycapstone biomedical engineering design course.We conducted our research with student teamslearning to design. We investigate design skills,predicting that students’ learning of designerlyaspects of problem solving, (e.g., incorporatingcustomer needs), will depend upon the need topractice such skills. We hypothesize that learningto design involves acquiring and applying factualand conceptual knowledge but that doing so is notsu
cient to predict innovative design. Finally, weconsiderwhyteamdesigninparticularo
ff 
erspoten-tial for learning, predicting that when studentsperceive opportunities to collaborate and sharetheir ideas that they will tend to produce moreinnovative designs.We next frame thisstudybyconsidering researchon the development of expertise in general and indesign specifically, also considering aspects of col-laboration as they relate to problem solving anddeveloping expertise.Studies of engineering design have focused pri-marily on contrasting novice with intermediate orexpert designers or on categorizing design skills of experts. In most cases, these studies have occurredinisolation of other people, (though resources havebeen available during tasks), and the design taskshave been of limited duration (generally under twohours) [2]. For instance, individual professionalengineers spent two hours designing an attachmentfor placing a certain bag onto a certain bike frame[3]. Dorst [4] raised the issue of using such experi-mentaltasksforthestudyofdesign.Althoughthesetasksseemtowarrantthegenerationofataxonomyofdesignproblems,itisdi
culttoknowifthetasksthathavebeenthefocusofstudyarerepresentative,especially as most have occurred in laboratorysettings, not in design studio settings. Therefore,thereviewofresearchondesignmustbeconsideredsomewhat tentative in its bearing on extended teamdesign
learning 
.Thoughtherearesomewhoconsiderdesigntobemore art than method [5], many researchers havefounditfruitfultooperationalizedesignprocessasatype of problem solving. Jonassen [6] categorizedproblems by providing the dimensions of structure,complexity,anddomainspecificity.Well-structuredproblems involve the application of finite conceptsand rules in a predictive and prescriptive manner,such that the solutions are predictable. Ill-struc-tured problems
emerge
in life and require the inte-grationofvariousdomainsofknowledgeandskills.Ill-structured problems involve incorporating pre-ference or opinion while making judgments aboutunknown and uncertain elements, such that there
* Accepted 4 March 2012.
1
IJEE 2601 PROOFS
International Journal of Engineering Education
Vol. 28, No. 4, pp. 117, 2012 0949-149X/91 $3.00+0.00Printed in Great Britain
#
2012 TEMPUS Publications.
 
are multiple solution paths to multiple, unpredict-able solutions. Based on such a categorization,designproblemswouldbeconsideredill-structured.Complexity is a function of the number of vari-ables, the amount of interconnectedness betweenvariables, the type of relationships between vari-ables, and the stability of all of these parametersover time [6]. Dynamic problems are more complexthan static problems. Domain specificity refers tothedegreetowhichdomain-specificversusdomain-general methods may be employed in solving aproblem. Domain-specific problems are situatedandcontextualized.Utilizingsuchacategorization,design problems would be considered complex anddomain specific.Additionally, design problems are said to co-evolve with their solutions [7]. As an illustration,consider a situation in which the same designproblem is assigned to 50 teams; according toHarfield [8], this would result, not in 50 solutionstothesameproblembut50solutionsto50di
ff 
erentproblems. The problem to be solved, and theresultant solution, will depend on many issues,including context, bias, prior experiences, andprior knowledge [8]. Because of their ill-structure,theincorporationofjudgmentandstyle,andtheco-evolutionofproblemandsolution,designproblemshave been labeled ‘wicked’ [9]. This discussion of design is general enough to apply to many types of design; next we discuss engineering design in parti-cular.
ProblemScoping:
Gooddesignisconsideredtobetied to good problem scoping [10], which involvesclarifying and defining the problem as well asgathering information. Design is systematic, anddesigners start from first principles [11], or funda-mental physical principles [12]. Expert designers,more so than novices, may question the data thatthey aregiven in adesign task [13, 14]. Experts tendto take a broad approach informed by personalpreference and then explore the problem space in aprincipled manner [15], relying on procedural stra-tegies.Incontrast, novicedesigners relyondeclara-tive knowledge and a depth-first approach [16].Expert designers gather more data than novicedesigners [10]. Perhaps more critical, experienceddesigners pay better attention to the customerneeds, logistics, and constraints in the design task[17]. Novices tend to spend more time on problemscoping than experts, but to less beneficial e
ff 
ect[10].
Becoming Solution Focused:
The design problemand solution co-evolve, and multiple possible solu-tions exist [8]. As designers become solutionfocused, they populate the design process withdynamic, temporary goals. Strategies for solvingproblems may be local or global, as ill-structuredproblems are decomposed into well-structured sub-problems [15]. This requires frequent cognitiveswitching, but does not necessarily involve consid-eration of broad alternatives [18]. Experts employflexible strategies [10], as opposed to the trial-and-errorstrategiescommonlyusedbynovices,andthiso
ff 
ers clear advantages to expert designers, whoevaluate prior to making a decision [13]. Designersmust consider alternative solutions [10], and theycommonly accomplish this via analogy. Experi-enced designers have a large repertoire of manymore relevant analogies based in previous designexperience than novices [19]. Experts in design relyheavily on ideation techniques, which foster analo-gical reasoning [20], and on prior relevant experi-ences [8, 13].Research has shown that myriad experiences areneeded to fully apprehend a concept or skill [21, 22]and that understanding may be revised with addi-tion of new cases relevant to a skill or concept [23].With experience, designers become more aware of issues related to the task at hand and e
ciently can judge which are most problematic. They alsobecomeaware ofthereasonsforuseandprocessingbehind a device. This makes expert designers moreattuned to trade-o
ff 
s and limitations and providesthemwiththeabilitytoquestionwhetheradesignisworth pursuing, to keep their design options open,or even to reframe the problem into a new designtask [13]. Whereas experts may rely on their pastdesign experiences as they proceed in a design,novices might draw upon prior coursework experi-ences, which in the context of learning to designthroughproject basedlearning [24] mayor maynotberelevant.Wehaveexaminedtheaspectsofdesignthat we believe lend themselves to a focus on theindividualandthecognitiveprocessesinvolvedwithdesign as a problem solving activity.
2. Participants and methods
The participants of this study were senior bioengi-neeringstudentsenrolledinthecapstone,year-longdesign class at The University of Texas at Austin.Like many capstone models, this course is taken byseniorstudentsaftercompletionofacourseofstudyincludingmanyscience,mathematics,andengineer-ing science courses [25]. The study gained IRBapproval and students included in the study gaveconsent. Cohort one comprised students from fall2005throughspring2006andcohorttwocomprisedstudentsfromfall2006throughspring2007.Designteams were organized by the course instructors andconsisted of three or four students. The instructorsmade sure that non-native English speakers weredistributed across design teams such that no teamconsisted entirely of non-native English speakers.
V. Svihla et al.2
 
Theclasswastaughtintwoconsecutivesemestersby two di
ff 
erent professors. The class met intermit-tently, with lectures targeting specific topics andrelated assignments. The four teaching assistants(who varied from semester to semester) played alarge role in facilitating the students’ learning; theteaching assistants had approximately 100 contacthourswiththeteamsandhelpedwithassessment of students’ work. The teaching assistants met weeklywith the instructors to discuss upcoming assign-ments, team progress, and to surface any issuesteams might be having. Additionally, teams werementored by faculty advisors and their sponsors,though these interactions varied across teams.Both cohorts completed a preliminary projectprior to beginning their sponsored project (Figure1). Cohort one completed a kit-based mini-project,inwhichallteamsdesigneddigitalstethoscopeswiththe constraint that they functionally incorporate aspecific material. Cohort two completed a redesignproject,inwhichteamsselectedbiomedicaldevices,such as nicotine patches, inhalers, and pregnancytests, and redesigned some aspect of the devicebased on customer needs.After completion of the preliminary project, theteams were selected by sponsors to design a biome-dicaldeviceorprotocol(AppendixA).Theprojectscame from hospitals, industry, government, anduniversities, and while they varied in terms of di
culty, all were real-world, complex, and ill-structured. Additionally, all projects requiredskills and content knowledge that were not part of the degree program. For example, projects invol-ving circuits may have been challenging becausethese students did not have extensive experiencewith circuits, whereas the same project may havebeen comparatively straightforward for an electri-cal engineering student. Students were giveninstruction during lectures and completed activitiesrelevant to their designs andthe natureof engineer-ing design. Activities included a number of toolscommon to both engineering design education andto professional design. They used Gantt Charts tokeep track of deadlines and were allowed to selectfrom a variety of commonly used ideation techni-ques (e.g., brainstorming) to support them incoming up with possible design solutions. Voice of the Customer interviews combined with PughCharts served to help them identify and prioritizecustomer needs, which were then placed in a Houseof Quality which allowed them to compare existingand possible designs to decide how to proceed.These tools reinforced the idea that the designshould flow from customer needs, a challengingconcept for students to understand. Additionally,students submitted progress reports to keep theirsponsor apprised of their progress, and made sev-eral oral presentations to their teaching assistantsandcourseprofessor;theseandtheirdesignjournalshelped the teaching assistants and professor keeptabs on their progress.Thisstudyreportsasequenceofanalysesofin-situstudentteamdesignlearning:First,wecomparedthetwo versions of a preliminary design activity andconsidered the dimensions by which they di
ff 
ered;then, we examined the conceptual knowledge andinnovativeness of team design work as part of anindustry-sponsored design project; finally, we con-sidered variables that might explain innovation instudent design work. In doing so, we addressed thefollowing research questions:
￿
Howmightabrief,non-sponsored designprojectbeusedtointroduceengineeringdesignfollowinga sequence of engineering science coursework?
￿
What dimensions might increase the authenticityof such a project?
￿
Howmightthepreliminarydesignprojectimpactthe quality of conceptual understanding andinnovation in the sponsored design work?
￿
Howdostudents’perceptionsofopportunitiestonegotiate their own learning relate to the qualityof conceptual understanding and innovation inthe sponsored design work?We investigated design skills, predicting that stu-dents’ learning of 
designerly
aspects of problemsolving, (e.g., incorporating customer needs),would depend upon the need to practice suchskills. We hypothesized that learning to designinvolves acquiring and applying factual and con-ceptualknowledgebutthatdoingsoisnotsu
cienttopredictinnovative design.Finally,weconsideredwhy team design in particular o
ff 
ers potential forlearning, predicting that when students perceiveopportunities to collaborate and share their ideasthat they would tend to produce more innovativedesigns.
3. Measures and results
3.1 How might a brief, non-sponsored design project be used to introduce engineering design following a sequence of engineering sciencecoursework? 
Our first research question investigated two itera-tions of a two-month long non-sponsored design
Learning to Design: Authenticity, Negotiation, and Innovation 3
Fig. 1.
Course format and comparison of preliminary projects.

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