Contrasting what beginning and informed designers do

The following table is adapted from The Informed Design Teaching and Learning Matrix by David Crismond and Robin Adams (Journal of Engineering Education, October 2012, Vol. 101, No. 4, pp. 738-797). The text in the table is only very slightly modified from that provided in Crismond and Adams’ article, but their matrix contains additional columns which include useful suggestions for strategies to help novice designers become more informed. Here however, I’ve just extracted the bare essentials as a bit of food for thought for teams working on the RoboSumo design project. For just about anyone working on an undergraduate group design project, I think some of these descriptions are likely to resonate!

Understanding the challenge Problem solving

Treat design task as a well-defined, straightforward problem that they prematurely attempt to solve.

Problem framing

Delay making design decisions in order to explore, comprehend and frame the problem better.

Building knowledge Skip research

Skip doing research and instead pose or build solutions immediately.

Do research

Do investigations and research to learn about the problem, how the system works, relevant cases, and prior solutions.

Generating ideas Idea scarcity

Work with few or just one idea, which they can get fixated or stuck on, and may not want to change or discard.

Idea fluency

Practice idea fluency in order to work with lots of ideas by doing divergent thinking, brainstorming, etc.

Representing ideas Surface drawing & modeling

Propose superficial ideas that do not support deep inquiry of a system, and that would not work if built.

Deep drawing & modeling

Use multiple representations to explore and investigate design ideas and support deeper inquiry into how system works.

Weighing options and making decisions Ignore benefits & tradeoffs

Make design decisions without weighing all options, or attend only to pros of favoured ideas, and cons of lesser approaches.

Balance benefits & tradeoffs

Use words and graphics to display and weigh both benefits and tradeoffs of all ideas before picking a design.

Conducting experiments Confounded tests & experiments

Do few or no tests on prototypes, or run confounded tests by changing multiple variables in a single experiment.

Valid tests & experiments

Conduct valid experiments to learn about materials, key design variables and how the system works.

Troubleshooting Unfocused troubleshooting

Use an unfocused, non-analytical way to view prototypes during testing and troubleshooting of ideas.

Diagnostic troubleshooting

Focus attention on problematic areas and subsystems when troubleshooting devices and proposing ways to fix them.

Revising/iterating Haphazard/linear designing

Design in haphazard ways where little learning gets done, or do design steps once in linear order.

Managed & iterative designing

Do design in a managed way, where ideas are improved iteratively via feedback, and strategies are used multiple times as needed, in any order.

Reflecting on process Tacit design thinking

Do tacit designing with little self-monitoring while working or reflecting on the process and product when done.

Reflective design thinking

Practice reflective thinking by keeping tabs on design strategies and thinking while working and after finished.

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