Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Week 6 - Oct 1

This is our last section of readings on "what is design?". This last week focuses on the nature of design situations - how design compares to a general model of problem solving, how features of design tasks relate to design practices, and ways to characterize broad features of design situations.
  • Jonassen, D.H. (2000). “Toward a Design Theory of Problem Solving.” Educational Technology: Research & Development, 48 (4), pp. 63-85.
  • Goel, V. & Pirolli, P. (1992). “The Structure of Design Problem Spaces.” Cognitive Science 16, pp. 395-429.
  • Rittel, H., & Webber, M. (1973). Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Policy Sciences, 4(2), 155-169.

Some guiding questions:

  • How do they characterize "design situations"? In what ways does this speak to "design knowledge", "design processes" or "design thinking"?
  • How do they distinguish design from other activities (e.g., problem solving, non-design)? Do you find their arguments persuasive?
  • How do these ideas connect to our prior discussions / readings?


CJ said...

While I appreciate Jonassen’s classifications of problems and problem solving, I did not fully agree with a few of his claims. First of all, I think that there are ways that education or the education process could be improved, but I do not necessarily think it is true that “graduates are rarely, if ever, adequately prepared to function in everyday and professional contexts following education and training.” (63) This may be largely based on my own personal experiences, and of course it may be true for some students, but I do not think that it is very fair to claim that nearly all students do not know how to solve ill-structured problems. (But, I guess it could also be questioned if anyone really knows how to solve ill-structured problems or if some just seem to do it better than others.) I would like to add to that though, that I do think it would be beneficial to the learning experience for students to be provided with more opportunities to solve ill-structured problems in the educational environment to gain experience and practice.

I also found it interesting that Jonassen categorized “design problems” as a separate type of problem, rather than explaining it as a combination of many of the other types of problem categories listed. He did later describe how the problems types often do not occur in isolation of one another, which may take into account that design problems also may consist of a combination of other problems as well.

I think that Rittel and Webber do not know much about the natural sciences or engineering. (On the other hand, I should mention though that I do not claim to know much about planning or social policy either.) The authors claim that problems faced by scientists and engineers are “mostly ‘tame’ or ‘benign’ ones,” (160) but I do not see it that way. Aside from their statements about engineering however, I see many connections between the background in defining planning and problems and our discussions of design problems.

Also, I think that several of their characteristics of “wicked problems” are also traits that we have discussed as describing design problems. So, although the authors claim that engineering problems are completely different than the wicked problems facing social policy, I think that design problems may also be characterized as wicked problems.

§adieLovingtonNibblesworth said...

I found it difficult to move from the past, five weeks, to the expansive nature of these writings. Whereas previous authors had discussed certain, core ideas of group dynamics in design, or ideas about the fundamental nature of design, moving into and beyond the systems discussion of design seemed a bit overwhelming.
One of the chief comparisons I kept making was between the works of Strobel and Mehalik and the work of Jonassen throughout the reading. Whereas Strobel and Mehalik are interested in the formulation of ill-defined problems in design, Jonassen takes a step beyond the previous works. To him, the idea of framing the ill-structured problem is but one issues within constructing his design space.
I find Jonassen's framework to be morbidly entertaining given that Mehalik states that design frameworks are often inaccurate and usually serve those who lack expertise in the realm of design. The difference, of course, between Jonassen's work and what Mehalik was referring to as inaccurate design frameworks, is that Jonassen is not only speaking about the beginning of the design process, but the design process as a whole.

celia said...

The readings of this week did a lot of comparison work. Goel and Pirolli compared design with non-design; Jonassen distinguished design from other problem types; Rittel & Webber claim that planning is a wick problem and liste their evidences though, as CJ said, the features are not exclusive to planning.
Currently, I am interested in workplace problems solving……As Jonassen mentioned, everyday problems are always meta problems, which means different types of problems often interwind with each other. In addition , another interesting thing is that one problem can be well-structured and ill-structured at the same time. E.g., The goal of the problem is well structured while the way to achieve the goal is ill-structured…. I think all these characters can be found in design problems, which made them complicated.

Aidsa said...

This week’s readings have been very interesting. There is a lot to talk about but for the purpose of this environment I will refer to some of the ideas proposed by Jonassen about problem solving. In his paper, Jonassen refers to the importance of problem solving on instructional settings. He argues that students are not prepared to “function in everyday and professional contexts following education and training” in part because they are encountered to well structured problems, that are “inconsistent with the nature of problems they will need to learn to solve in their everyday lives”, during their educational experience. Instead, he claims students need to be exposed to ill-structured problems, by adapting instructional strategies to support an open-ended learning environment. I agree with this statement, but it will require modifying the existing curriculums, especially in engineering, which tend to focus more on the “science” aspect instead of the “practical” aspect of engineering education. The author recommended the use of authentic cases, simulations, modeling, coaching, and scaffolding as instructional strategies that can support students to the proposed learning environment.

Jonassen defined problems as “an unknown entity in some situation” that requires some “social, cultural, or intellectual value”. Furthermore, he makes reference to the “reciprocal regularity between knowledge and activity” that occurs during the problem solving process which is not a “uniform activity”. Knowledge relates to the individual mental models required to solve problems. He differentiates between expert and novices mental models or “schemas for solving particular types of problems”. Experts have experience in solving certain problems which enables them to “proceed directly to the implementation stage and to try out the activated solution. That is the reason for their ability to recognize different problem states that requires certain solutions with little searching thorough the problem space. These “experiences” relate to what he called “individual differences” which, according to him, are affected by: domain knowledge, structural knowledge, procedural knowledge, conceptual knowledge, domain-specific reasoning, cognitive styles, problem solving strategies, self-confidence, and motivation of the individual. All of these are variables that affect the teaching-learning process. How can educators teach students to solve ill-structured problems when there are so many variables to take into considerations? Are they considering these variables? Jonassen also mentioned that problem solving representations involve “mapping existing problem schema onto a problem using the procedure that is part of the problem schema to solve it”. But, what is the appropriate procedure to solve a problem? Is there a unique one or a better one? How can the individual determine if it is the most suitable for the situation? Who decides?...

Junqiu said...

My first impression about the three papers is that they are trying to talk about exactly the same thing--what is a design problem compared with a non-design problem. Jonassen gave a brief description about a "ill-structured problem" compared with Rittel's spending much more space in describing "wicked problem". Both listed alomst the same properties for a wicked problme or design problem.
However, Jonassen is more concerned with the educational aspect of a design problem. Can we teach the student to become a design problem solve. One point he emphasize which i could not agree more is that students recieved too much training in solving well-structured problem, thus they are not ready to work in a real problme soving environment since they lack the ability to solve ill-structured problem.
While Goel and Pirolli went deeply to a philosophical perspective trying to establish a framework to make designing problem more visible. An design problem is a function of "human problem solver", "task environment" and "problem space". The task environment includes tha social, economic aspects and so on, which also were discussed in Rittel and Webber's paper. Jonassen talked about individual difference as an important factor a ill-structured problem, while this is developed as "problem solver or human information-processing system with a problem."
By the way, those papers are really very difficult to understand.

little-T truth said...

The articles for this week's readings raised some very interesting higher level questions regarding the intersection of design and the act of problem solving. In particular, I enjoyed the Johannsen article on problem solving and Rittel article on "Dilemmas in a General Theory of Planning." The articles are talking about design being used to solve problem and the cognitive challenges of shifting design skills (problem-solving) from well- to ill-structured problems and then to "wicked" problems. Well-structured problems invite a formulaic approach in thinking, teamwork, and solution obtaining. The move from well- to ill-structured problem requires the designer to enter into a new paradigm of design approach where epistemological beliefs, individual abilities, familiarity, domain-structural knowledge and collaborative communication assert themselves as factors influencing the solution, and subsequently the approach, of the designer. Ill-structured problems work in most technical arenas, yet the problems of the public domain whcih require a solution to be designed adds a series of constraints that challenge the design capability of the individual as the freedom to interpret an apporach to the problem is insufficient. Even more than ill-strucutured problems, "wicked" problems will test the epitemology of thinking/leanring and individual differences ofthe designers. The challenge stems from managing others issues, visions, and constructs of the problem and the designed solution in addition to addressing the question of what is the problem that can be solved. All of this long diatribe is to state that students can be prepared for ill-structured problems through the learning systems of individual programs by exposure to ill-structured, and well- to ill-strucured, learning paradigms. Although, in my oppinion, most programs leave that transition to the entry level engineering job, yet the advancement of designing for "wicked" problems comes from years of experience and an individual desire to challenge oneself as adesigner and the successful one, who are rarely "successful," are unique in their individual differences.