Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Week 14 - Nov 19 - learning trajectories

We're continuing the conversation from this week by looking at two papers.  We're also going to use these papers to connect to what we "observed" about design education and assessment (so don't forget to bring your notes!).

The paper by Crismond synthesizes research on design to identify learner differences and potential education remedies - with a particular focus on young learners. The paper by Dall'Alba and Sandberg is outside of the design research field but provides a view on learning trajectories - with a particular focus on learning professional practices. 

As you read these:
  • Connecting to "observations":  How do these readings relate to your "observations"?  
  • Working towards personas:  
    • How do these readings build on our work from this week on problem scoping, fixation, and process (e.g., new "dimensions" of design learning and how they develop or compare across differences in "expertise")?
    • Think of a "typical" engineering freshman during their fall term. Create a a story about this student (who they are, likes/dislikes, what they really like or hate about design, the kinds of design experiences they may have from the past, what they might believe about design, and what might be easy or difficult for them to learn about design). You can look at the examples here to think about the kinds of information you think is important to understand about this person. Come prepared to think about what "personas" are and how we can use them to synthesize and apply knowledge from this course to "design" design education.


celia said...

I think Crismond provides lots of useful information of creating a engineering freshman. And, he also introduces remedies, which are very helpful if we want to use these strategies in education.
Dall'Alba mainly argues that an embodied understanding of practice forms the basis for professional skills and its development.

Tie back to my observation and experience: I observed ENGR 126, Monica's session. The topic was “user-centered-design”.I am familiar with the topic since I attended cognitive engineering last semester, which talked a lot about user-centered-design. So it's interesting to compare these two :)

The key points of user-centered-design are covered in both classes,but in different levels. It is not difficult to image how it looks like if you condense a course which lasts for one semester into one hour.

I believe the biggest differences is that students in ENGR126 do not have a deep understanding of user-centered-design, compared with students in cognitive engineering course. Students in ENGR 126 only know some basic principles and general ideas. Though they were asked to creat personas in class, it seems that they were just enjoying the fun! They do not think carefully what it means to give personna such kind of charateritics~

In contrast, in cognitive engineering, we only talked about one step of UCD each time. There are more deep discussions in class. In addition, in the whole semester, we were working on a UCD project, which offer students real experience with UCD.

Compared with those in ENGR126,students in cognitve engineering understand what they are doing and why they do that and how it contributes to the concept of "user-centered"

CJ said...

To expand on the discussion of fixation from our last class meeting, the article by Crismond brings up some additional interesting points. Crismond notes some additional reasons for designers getting stuck on certain ideas including “a simple lack of motivation to review early choices and the underlying assumptions,” but continues to state that “weak skills at collaboration may also lead teams not to improve upon the first ideas they generate” (17). As one of the remedies, the author presents “Rapid Prototyping.” Although this may help students see the concepts as a physical prototype, and may lead to a more “solution-focused” rather than “problem-focused” approach, I am not sure if this will actually assist beginning designers to move away from their tendency to fixate on a certain solution. I think this would especially be the case in situations where, as Crismod explains, “designers fail to abandon their first-born ideas, even after doing numerous design iterations and running tests that clearly demonstrate the idea’s ineffectiveness” (17). I also witnessed an instance of this tendency in the observations conducted for the design education project and have seen several cases of fixation in introductory design classes.

The article by Dall’Alba and Sandberg presents some interesting ideas about professional development. I like their model for development of professional skill with both horizontal and vertical dimensions. I think, however, that because there are so many factors involved it may be a bit difficult to actually explain progressions of different individuals. The authors note that “these understandings may show some variation from one social, historical, or cultural context to another” and that “establishing the forms that these understandings takes in a specific context requires empirical investigation” (400). Even with additional investigations, I think it would be difficult to categorize so many factors into only two dimensions of development. To comment on the implications that were discussed, I think that practice is definitely required for individuals to advance and develop in both their skills and “embodied understanding”. While there may be techniques that can be presented to help students or beginners develop more in a certain area, it seems that the knowledge that is taught can only serve to supplement the actual practice or implementation of the knowledge.

§adieLovingtonNibblesworth said...

To be honest, I don't exactly know how to relate both of these papers to the observations I made two weeks ago in the class CJ TAs (ME 263,) but I'll try to make some leaps here.

Reviewing the Dall'Alba paper, I notice a critique of the Dreyfus methodology is that it does not take into account the specific types of skills being developed at each level. Having observed what appeared to be a team project presentation in ME 263, I think that the Dreyfus model is correct in not being specific in the type of understanding being formed. The groups had obviously reached some sort of level where they could effectively communicate a design they had come up with for the class. I think that in a broad sense, the fact they could show the draft of their design, explain the iterations in it quite clearly when probed, and had taken into account many design constraints on different levels, puts them in a certain category as designers.

The reference and reflection about Heidegger in the paper is both interesting and misleading. Since I am quite familiar with his writings from this semester, I have to say that Heidegger has an idea of the interface of the human being and design, but in order to understand that, one must understand what Heidegger means by a human being, and how the understander (or object that promotes understanding) and understandee interface.

As far as Crismond was concerned, I saw a few of his sweeping remarks reflected in the project reports I witnessed. I noticed that one group definitely was capable of focusing "on what is relevant" in their report. In fact, both groups did this to a certain extent, and I noticed that their ability to report upon things in an "informed" manner greatly reflected their skill in that matter.

For instance, one group has thoroughly thought about the definition of a doorknob, in order to better constrain the design of a handicapped person's doorknob aid. They actually made explicit the "definition of a doorknob" on a slide and explained what types of doorknobs they defined and how they function. I thought this was a very good example of an informed designer communicating his/her "informedness."

The previous example also melds into what Crismond calls the "Skip versus DO Research" section. As informed designers, the doorknob group defined their design by RESEARCHING the definition of something as commonplace as a doorknob! Although to the beginning designer, this would seem as something trivial, the informed designer wants to know what is considered standard.

celia said...

I have some trouble in creating "an engineering freshman".

Though I could imagine how they will behave when working on design problems, I find it's difficult for me to create a story, which is related with their prior experience. I have no idea what kind of education they received, how it affected their view towards design, what kind of activities they might attend before college~

In other words, I do not know exactly how an Aemrican grows up :)

Aidsa said...

Reflecting on the class I observed two months ago (Thermodynamics), I can make many connections with Crismond’s ideas, especially because of his comparisons between novices and experts. For the purpose of the blog, I will refer to the first six elements of informed designing described on page 3. In class I hope we will have time to talk further more about our experiences as observers and their connection to the phases of design he presented. Many connections can be made with Dall’Alba’s paper, even though it does not relate directly to “engineering design”, but her ideas about novices and experts are connected to previous readings.

In the class I had the opportunity to observe not only the students working in groups, but also the professor explaining the design process, the concepts necessary for the design, presentation of the design problem, explanation of each of the design (sketches); its strengths and weaknesses. I will connect not only to the students’ behavior but also the professor as well. According to Crismon, the elements of informed designing include:
1. “Making Knowledge-Driven & Explanation-Based Decision”. I saw students looking back into previous class notes to make connections with the problem presented. Also when the professor analyzed each of the designs, he referred constantly to the different laws or theories that applied to the concept to rationalize the strength or weaknesses of the proposed design.

2. “Using Design Strategies Effectively”. The professor presented different design process, but made emphasis on the importance of iterations among the different phases in the “good quality of a design”. He also showed examples of “failures” in design to promote among the students the considerations of different factors such as usability, materials, etc. on their designs.

3. “Learning Through Designing”. During the time students were working in groups, the professor went around the classroom with each of the groups and questioned some of their decisions to promote reflection among the group members on the activity (“reflection-on-action”). I notices how they were able to capture possible failures in the design and by explaining it out loud to other group members, they were able to learn from their mistakes and improve the design as well.

4. “Intelligent Perceiving & Perspective-Taking”; 5. “Sustaining Technological Inquiry”; and 6. “Connecting Knowledge and Skills”. Due to time constraints and/or limitations in the design task, students were only required to draw a sketch of their alternative solution to the problem presented. They did not have the opportunity to go through the testing of the proposed alternative and identify positives or negatives from their design. At the same time, as the professor explained each one of the proposed sketches, he was able to provide a general picture of the performance (good or bad) of the proposed design. Unfortunately, students were not required to go over their sketches and improve them.

little-T truth said...

The two articles adressing forms of learning trajectories offered challenges to "my" way of thinking about learning in some fashion. In particular the Dall'Alba/Sandberg article with its secondary axis of learning influencing whether one achieves expert status or not is very appealing. I am not sure I want to completely agree with their assertions (I am still mulling them over), however, for some time I have believed there are other factors to the novice-expert continuum whereby a novice recieves plenty of experience to go with their education, yet fails to emerge as an expert. Looking back over our conversations, reflection development plays a significant role in the process, which is what I beleive the vertical integration axis is getting at when it talks about understand of/in practice contributes to one's development as an expert. Reflection-on-action and reflection-in-action are skills that can be developed to some degree -- reflection-in -action is much harder to identify as being present -- yet like all skills their must be some differentiaition within reflections in practice as applied to a domain which moves an individual to a point tht allows their process to transend the domain and hence the individual becomes an "expert" in that they are no longer domain/situational ties, but rather can extend their "process" to any given situation/problem as an approach that lets them engage issues at higher levels than others.

The design learning trajectories papers tied nicely into the project work I was doing for the class in that I was comparing a pair of textbooks associated with design from two eras. There is a definite difference in how individuals expected these design artifacts themselves (textbooks) to be utilized and the advancement in understanding to be obtained. There is a definite shift to be argued for in how design has moved from a domain-situated attribute of engineering to a broader encompassing "process apporach" that embraces cognition and social cognitive features of problem-solving. The earlier text definately assumes an horizontal-only approach to the novice-expert continuum, while the more modern text moves from simple domain process into reflection and other larger "understandings" (ethics) role in the problem-solving approach.