June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Design in Engineering Education
26.828.1 - 26.828.12
Angels of Our Better Nature: Finding Evidence of the Benefits of Design Thinking In the field of engineering education and beyond, there is a widespread and growing belief in the importance of teaching the disciplinary practices of engineering design, i.e., “design thinking”. Despite this enthusiasm, researchers have not found much evidence of (1) what design thinking is important for and (2) that it is teachable, i.e. that kids will learn to apply it somewhere else besides the immediate context. Many have attempted to teach design thinking in the service of learning content; others have emphasized its importance for training future designers. In our view, one of the most important features of design thinking is that it (like the scientific method) invites a focus on ways of thinking that can protect against common pitfalls (e.g., falling in love with your first idea, or getting derailed by negative feedback). Instruction incorporating design thinking therefore has the potential to help lower achieving students the most, for whom instruction tends to focus on remediation of content rather than the disciplinary strategies and practices of engineering. In this paper, we report on a study in which we taught elements of design thinking to middle school students (N~200), integrating it into the existing curriculum throughout several subject areas (math, social studies, & science). The instruction had two conditions; about half of the classes at all levels were taught in a way that at key points emphasized the stakeholder relationship, specifically the importance of seeking (negative) feedback. In the other condition, at key points the emphasis was on parallel design, specifically the benefits of coming up with a bunch of initial ideas and sorting them on key characteristics. At the end of a month of instruction, students took computer game-‐based assessments that measured process data of the choices they made while playing an apparently unrelated video game. One game involved designing a poster and getting feedback on it. The other involved taking photographs and learning about how camera settings could affect the pictures. High-‐achieving students in both conditions looked similar on both games, but low-‐achieving students differed by condition. In the poster game, the low-‐achieving students in the stakeholder condition sought more negative feedback than their counterparts in the parallel design condition. In the camera game, low-‐achieving students in the parallel design condition sorted their ideas more than those in the stakeholder condition. The results of this crossover study demonstrate that all students can do design thinking, given an environment where it is valued. This study serves as an existence proof that it is possible to measure the benefits of teaching design thinking, offering hope that we can improve the instruction of disciplinary practices and dispositions based on evidence.
Conlin, L. D., & Chin, D. B., & Blair, K. P., & Cutumisu, M., & Schwartz, D. L. (2015, June), Guardian Angels of Our Better Nature: Finding Evidence of the Benefits of Design Thinking Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24165
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