June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
Design in Engineering Education
24.1035.1 - 24.1035.16
A Conceptual Model of How to Structure A Design Thinking CourseOver the last decade, the study of design thinking is drawing increasing attentions in bothacademia and industry. As a result of this trend, a number of design thinking courses have beendeveloped by different organizations. Nevertheless, to date, relatively few efforts have beendevoted to conceptually describe what constitutes a design thinking course and how it differsfrom the traditional engineering design courses. Based on Vygotsky’s Zone of ProximalDevelopment, this paper conceptually models the design thinking course as a system thatfunctions to gradually reduce the distance between a student’s actual design capability asdetermined by his/her independent problem solving, and the student’s potential design capabilityas determined by his/her problem solving under instructor/expert’s guidance.The IDEF0 methodology is used to describe the functions of a design thinking course withrespect to its input, output, mechanism, and control. The input of a design thinking course refersto a series of domain independent design principles being lectured by the instructor. Unliketraditional design courses that teach students design theories and methods to solve specificproblems, a design thinking course teaches domain independent principles that are generallyapplicable to different design problems. The output is student’s actual cognitive faculty to solvedesign-specific problems independently (without external guidance from instructor/expert). Themechanism of the design thinking course means the social interactions between instructor andstudents. Unlike traditional design courses that are characterized by a linear transmission ofknowledge from instructor to students, the design thinking course features social interactionsthrough which knowledge is being constructed with texts and in contexts. In a design thinkingcourse, the social interaction between student(s) and instructor(s) develops in a non-linear,iterative, and abductive manner over time. The control of the design thinking course refers to thedistance between student’s potential capability with his/her actual capability. This is to say that,the zone of proximal development controls the lever of social interactions within a design course:as student’s actual design capability increases, instructor’s engagement level decreases.Based on the above conceptual model, a practical strategy of how to structure a design thinkingcourse is proposed, which consists of five activities: (1) instructor prepares student’s mind byintroducing some basic design principles; (2) instructor engages students in a design process byassigning some simple tasks for students to practice individually; (3) students interact withexpert designer to gain insights, for instance, instructor guides students to jointly go through adesign process; (4) students review, reformulate the above guided design process by themselves;(5) students share with the class their unique design thinking process/outcome. A case study ispresented to detail the practical deployment of the proposed model on a graduate design course,namely “Advanced Mechanical Design – Innovative Design Thinking”, that is offered in a top 10U.S. engineering school. The assessment of student’s ideation effectiveness (i.e., based on themetrics of novelty, variety, quantity, and quality) indicates that the new teaching strategy resultsin a significant increase of student’s conceptual design performance.
Liu, A., & Lu, S. Y. (2014, June), Reinforcing a “Design Thinking” Course by Restructuring Student-Instructor Interactions Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. https://peer.asee.org/22968
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