Saturday, November 21, 2009

Week 15 - Expert / Novice differeces

Thanks to Meagan these are our summaries and hypotheses from this week:




We have two more sets of readings - they represent a culmination of the two major parts of this course (e.g., the first weeks on "what is design knowledge or knowing" and the later weeks on "what is design cognition and learning").

This week it's all about exploring how novices and experts differ - one is a particular study that builds off of the data we've been using in class (Atman et al), one is an overview (Cross), and one is a focus on creative designers (Cross).

As you read these papers, reflect back on our prior readings and activities (such as analyzing design data last week). For example, what stands out as consistent themes that tell a story about how novices and experts differ? How can our past readings and activities help us understand why these differences might exist? Can you imagine a "typical" design student and what they might struggle with in terms of learning how to design (and ground it in these readings and others)? (This last question is a foreshadowing of our final synthesis activity - creating "personas" of typical design learners (K-12, undergraduate, graduate, practicing) to imagine ways to support their learning or more effective design practice. "Personas" are a strategy in human-centered design that helps designers understand "the problem" and evaluate potential solutions.)

As a heads up to the next week - the focus will be on thinking of expert-novice differences in terms of learning trajectories - how designers change over time in terms of what they know about design.

6 comments:

Kat said...

This week's papers are interconnencted with eachother, but also summarise all big ideas that had been mentioned in past readings. They examine the diference among experts and novices and examine the differences both in terms of content and strategies. They examine the different aproaches regarding to defining a problem, gathering information, implementing the final design, and they also examine the transitions between different stages of the design process. There is one big issue though that keeps coming into my mind. All these papers start by comparing novices with experts. Assuming that the experts have become experts following the current "more traditional" educational system, i can predict that in some years following the same path the novices will become experts themselves. Wouldnt it be a little more interesting to examine what these experts do wrong in order to try to include that in a new educational procedure too?

KMFord1985 said...

Atman et al. (2008) inspired thoughts
- Thought paper did a good job detailing the fixation vs. focus discussion we have been having as of late.
- I thought the authors made a valid point regarding how different professions may interpret design quality differently. Therefore, would we be better off choosing scorers from a variety of backgrounds and averaging their scores together at the end to determine design quality?
- How should we interpret the fact that experts spend less time generating ideas? Is this merely due to experts being able to quickly identify feasible solutions or because their creativity has decreased over time? I am assuming the former is the primary reason but I would be interested in the role creativity plays overtime. I would hypothesize that more experienced designers in certain fields often develop an atrophy of sorts with their creativity ‘muscles’ due to the demands of producing a quality design as quickly and cheaply as possible.
- Given that experts do not score significantly higher than seniors, does this indicate that general design knowledge is not nearly as important as having sufficient experience in the design task? This reminds me of the Outliers book by Malcolm Gladwell, where he posits that 10,000 hours of practice is the key for achieving ‘expertise’, as opposed to any other personal attribute. If true, should our goal as educators then be to immerse the students in specific design tasks early and often?

michihcim said...

There seems to be some disparities when describing design expertise. There does not seem to be a clean cut between experts and non-experts in some of the cases. For example, what fixation is and how it is described is different from study to study. Novices might fixate on solutions as they are unable to consider alternate solution. On the other hand, experts worked with their principles and are likely to stick with their principles. Another example is the fuzzy line between solution-focused and problem –focused. From reviewing literature, Cross indicated that expert designers seem to be solution-focused rather than problem-focused as they approach task through solution conjecture, not problem analysis. However, Atman et al. found that experts gather more information and spent more time on problem scoping activities. The disparities that I see might be due to my superficial understanding of the result description. Or, it can be due to the complex nature of design and because of our lack of more profound framework to describe design expertise. I feel that from these articles, I get a lot of looks of what design expertise might look like in terms of expert behavior. However, the “why” seem to be quite blurred. For instance, what strikes me the most is that in his synthesis of design expertise, many times Cross mentioned what set experts and novices apart were factors like personal commitment, deliberate practice, and such. Why we might be able to observe how expert designers design, these affective factors are not easily explained.

AD said...

From the overview by Cross, I found it interesting to think about well-defined vs. ill-defined problems and the notion that if we provide students/subjects with a problem that is well-defined, we may be cheating them out of an important design step. When we move from formulating the problem and into solution focusing, it is interesting to consider how designers tend to think about how they're going to solve the problem, not necessary what the problem is. While reading this I started to develop this model of design in my mind which was were you start with this mental model of a potential solution and as you read through constraints and start considering more factors and making decisions, the model begins to morph into something new. This follows the suggestion that designers with previous experience solving a certain problem type are more likely to revert to that knowledge and adapt it to fit the particular design constraints.

Laura said...

I really liked the Cross outline (I usually do like outline papers to see how far we've come sort of, and to connect everything we've talked about) but I sort of thought it wasn't really deep enough. I know that it's only supposed to summarize other findings, but a phrase I liked in the Atman et al. paper, was that it's a "path" from novice to expert. Just stating these noticeable differences between novices and experts doesn't necessarily teach us anything because we don't know why or how these changes occured. Also, much of the outline was just stating characteristics of expert designers - but there's no description of how these specific characteristics compare to novices, or how experts got to this point, so it isn't all that helpful.

Also, the section at the end of the outline, about studying only outstanding designers - well, doesn't that get a little tricky? What makes one designer outstanding over another designer? Design is such a random, subjective, changing process, that I feel like it would be impossible to form some sort of grading process to determine how good a design is, or worse, how good a designer is.

Steve Chenoweth said...

Agree about needing clarification on the situations, to know more clearly how experts and novices differed. For example, how familiar were the experts with this exact kind of problem? Richard Feynman used to mess with people by doing apparent shows of instant problem solving; however, he admitted later that he did this when in fact he already had solved the problem. E.g., pretending to "crack safes" in people's offices at Los Alamos, when in fact he knew the combination.

This is often a cool game for experts to engage in. Another example is Frank Lloyd Wright's instant design of falling water. According to some of his apprentices, he actually had practiced that design for a year in the back room, before making a big show of performing a miracle as the client was riding over to see the plans.

So, how much of design expertise is really just familiarity with the same exact situation, versus being better at dealing with novelty? I think that's not clear, for example, in Cross's overview.