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Week 2

Page history last edited by Steven Dow 14 years, 1 month ago


Start a dialog here for Larry Leifer's paper and talk:

Comments (7)

Brie Bunge said

at 1:54 am on Apr 9, 2010

I find it incredibly coincidental that the paper brings up the value of Project-Based Learning in the first year because I did just that with CS147 and CS247. He attributes the value of such courses to the fact that they "they introduce engineering content and experience early in the curriculum" and because they "put first-year students into direct contact with engineering faculty" (109). This is an assertion that I can attest to first-hand. The value of receiving insights from senior faculty has dramatically affected the way I go about design. This opens an interesting question about the ways in which this sort of influence can be more accessible. One might pose it as the question inspired by point 7 in the conclusion, "How might we create 'forums where design practitioners, design teachers, design researchers, cognitive scientists, and experts on learning can come together to collaborate on all of the is- sues addressed above and more'?" (114). The first idea that comes to mind is a wiki-style manual, but this sort of interface (a collection of documents) may not be enough. Intrinsic to design is creativity and action. How to package that…

On a complete side note, I was impressed by the number of references - this is clearly a thoroughly researched topic.

Praneeth Wanigasekera said

at 10:41 am on Apr 9, 2010

Thanks Brie. I found the focus on project-based learning interesting as well. I was also interested in knowing how geographically dispersed teams function in a non-academic context, say an actual design team in the corporate environment. As the goal of academia is to prepare students for the real world, anything that brings the design learning environment closer to the actual design process that engineers will face after graduating will likely improve their performance there: so not only would they learn better and be more satisfied but they would be more productive performers in real world design teams.

As a student in the business school, the focus on project based learning is something that we have been really pushing forward in the GSB curriculum over the last few years. I think early signs suggest that this definitely creates closer relationships between students who learn to work together. This is critical in a world that is increasingly diverse and global. The authors observation about the benefits of the increased cost (from having smaller sections) is something that has definitely been observed in that context.

When learning with smaller sections, something that is equally important I think is the relationships that are built between instructors and students, which lead to more student satisfaction but also increased satisfaction for instructors who can feel the impact of their design teaching in a very direct way. This allows for true two way communication in a design learning settings allowing the teacher to improve his or her teaching through feedback while customizing the material for a smaller group.

Andrew Hershberger said

at 12:06 pm on Apr 9, 2010

Great comments so far! It is very interesting to hear first-hand accounts about the influence and impact of PBL. On the whole I am excited about the expansion of PBL, especially in the first year of engineering education. Several details in the paper raised questions that I'd like to share:

First, the conclusion suggests talent loss in the engineering pipeline, but how did talent enter the pipeline in the first place given that design education was missing? I wonder whether it makes more sense to think of "missed opportunity for continued advancement" instead of "loss of talent" since engineering design curriculum is claimed to be largely the same as in decades past. Perhaps changes external to engineering design curriculum (culture, common values, etc.) have occurred to reduce the effectiveness of past teaching methods.

Secondly, quality and quantity of sketching is suggested as a cause of team project success, but it is unclear whether (1) the investment in sketching itself is the cause of success or whether (2) the preexisting ability of the team members is the common cause of both sketching and project outcomes. On a related note, how should design success be evaluated in an educational setting? In industry, success is more easily measured economically and even experts are often surprised by the results, but the evaluation in educational settings seems much more subjective.

Lastly, I question ABET's ability to motivate engineering faculty to embrace design education. I wonder if there might be more effective way to motivate the desired teaching practices and avoid catch-all classes for seniors to make sure the curriculum meets accreditation standards on paper.

chigusa said

at 12:07 pm on Apr 9, 2010

This paper is very informative, because we rebuilt our curriculum in our university, and added some freshman PBL classes. One thing missing here is the consideration of high school curriculum. At least in Japan, more and more PBL based method is introduced in grade schools, so that general PBL could be "Deja vue" for students. How to make it more coherent to theory learning and basic knowledge and skill training should be seriously considered.

Andrew Hershberger said

at 4:44 pm on Apr 10, 2010

Expanding PBL in to high school and grade school has obvious benefits, and I think that different elements of teamwork can be emphasized by teachers at each level. This could also help avoid the loss of creativity that Dr. Leifer says happens somewhere between kindergarten and the first year of graduate school. One challenge, however, will be to bootstrap the process, because my guess is that it is hard for someone without successful PBL experience to coach a project team. This suggests the immediate integration of PBL into the curriculum for degrees in education so that all new teachers will know what it is like to be part of a team that works well and to be part of one that does not. These are things that aren't easily taught by lecture or text but need to be experienced to understand.

Steven Dow said

at 2:42 pm on Apr 17, 2010

Great comments so far! Keep those grade school/kindergarten questions in mind for our visit from Dr. Mitch Resnick.

I was particularly interested in Leifer's comments at the end of class. He was talking about how hunters wander through the forest until they eventually find their prey, then they take the shortest path back to camp. Great metaphor for the messiness of design exploration. We're hearing time and again that creative problem solving is not a series of steps. It's not a recipe, but a process filled with ambiguity and uncertainty. This is exactly why it's difficult. Individuals gravitate away from uncertainty. Dan Ellsberg demonstrated this 50 years ago (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ellsberg_paradox). I imagine it's even more challenging to embrace ambiguity in social organizations where plans and roadmaps help keep people moving together.

I will suggest one of the grand challenges for a design thinking discipline is teaching people to accept an uncertain future result. My hunch is simply stating it is not enough. It comes through practice and coaching and failing along the way— strategies Leifer and his groups have been exploring through ME310 for years.

Poornimaw said

at 7:51 pm on Jun 9, 2010

@ Steven and Chigusa - your comment about the natural individual tendency to move away from uncertainty and risk is a very interesting one. How does one effectively re-orient people's thinking to accept an uncertain future? This seems to be applicable not just in design thinking but also for entrepreneurship and many other things in life. Problem based learning seems to provide a very pragmatic way of helping people change their mindset. But at the same time what are the skills and characteristic that individuals must acquire that will help them deal with greater risk, uncertainty and even failure? Chigusa, I was interested in knowing how cultural aspects may affect a person's ability to learn effectively through PBL, specially if they are exposed to a risk-averse, linear thinking culture at home or in their community?

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