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Evaluating best practices when interviewing stakeholders during design

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Professional Skills development in Design

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Ibrahim Mohedas University of Michigan

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Ibrahim Mohedas is currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan. He received his B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011. His research focuses on the design of medical devices for resource limited settings, particularly related to the use of design ethnography in developing these technologies. He works in the Laboratory for Innovation in Global Health Technology (LIGHT) and is co-advised by Shanna Daly and Kathleen Sienko.

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Shanna R. Daly University of Michigan Orcid 16x16

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Shanna Daly is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan. She has a B.E. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Dayton (2003) and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Purdue University (2008). Her research focuses on strategies for design innovations through divergent and convergent thinking as well as through deep needs and community assessments using design ethnography, and translating those strategies to design tools and education. She teaches design and entrepreneurship courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels, focusing on front-end design processes.

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Kathleen H. Sienko University of Michigan

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Kathleen H. Sienko is a Miller Faculty Scholar and Associate Professor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan (UM). She earned her Ph.D. in 2007 in Medical Engineering and Bioastronautics from the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Science and Technology, and holds an S.M. in Aeronautics & Astronautics from MIT and a B.S. in Materials Engineering from the University of Kentucky. She directs the UM Global Health Design Initiative, Sensory Augmentation and Rehabilitation Laboratory (SARL) and the Laboratory for Innovation in Global Health Technology (LIGHT), and co-directs the UM Center for Socially Engaged Design. Prof. Sienko has led efforts at the University of Michigan to incorporate the constraints of global health technologies within engineering design at the undergraduate and graduate levels. She is the recipient of a CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation, a Teaching Innovation Prize from the UM Provost, and a UM Undergraduate Teaching Award. While at MIT, she was a winner of the MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Competition.

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Grace Louise Cravens

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Grace Cravens is a junior undergraduate student at the University of Michigan studying Industrial & Operations Engineering. She is from St. Joseph, MI, and has worked for Sienko Research Group since 2013.

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Linh Huynh

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Engaging with stakeholders is necessary to design successful products and services. Emerging design processes, such as human-centered, user-centered, and participatory design, emphasize the use of stakeholders’ wants and needs to guide design decision making. These processes stand in contrast to more traditional technology-centered design approaches where designers make decisions that are then imposed on stakeholders. In engineering, human-centered design processes are becoming more ubiquitous, requiring students to effectively interact with stakeholders throughout the product development cycle. However, there is little research on how instructors can best evaluate these interactions to provide meaningful feedback to student designers. Existing research has demonstrated that while students might theoretically see the benefits of engaging actively with stakeholders, they encounter many practical challenges and may obtain only superficial benefits from the interactions This paper specifically focuses on the use of interviews as a source of stakeholder interaction during the design process; a crucial interaction methodology within the human-centered design philosophy.

The goal of this study was to differentiate high-performing and low-performing student designers as they interviewed stakeholders to elicit requirements. Stakeholder interview transcripts formed the basis of data for this analysis and were generated through an interactive design task in which students interviewed various stakeholders while developing product requirements. Student designers were assessed through a deductive coding scheme developed via a systematic literature review of stakeholder interviewing techniques within an assortment of fields (e.g., software engineering, requirements engineering, business/innovation, participatory design, information/expert systems development, human-centered design, human-computer interaction, etc.). We sought to identify the strategies (as defined by the coding scheme) that designers were able to implement most successfully and least successfully. The deductive coding scheme was comprised of interview level strategies (e.g., develop a rapport with the stakeholder, be flexible and opportunistic, use a co-creative interview strategy, etc.) and question level strategies (e.g., use projective questioning techniques, introduce domain knowledge, encourage deep thinking, etc.) that have been documented in the literature as positive practices during stakeholder interviewing.

Results indicate that within the sample of student designers, interview quality differed between students when assessed through the deductive coding scheme. Additionally, preliminary results indicate that the greatest differences between high- and low-performing student design interviewers were: encouraging deep thinking, investigating the product context of use, seeking design relevant information, and verifying the conclusions drawn from interviews. The results reveal areas in which student designers are most proficient and point to areas in which they require the most support. Engineering education can specifically target these areas where students struggle through the development of design interview tools or targeted pedagogy.

Mohedas, I., & Daly, S. R., & Sienko, K. H., & Cravens, G. L., & Huynh, L. (2016, June), Evaluating best practices when interviewing stakeholders during design Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26751

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