DS 123: Proceedings of the International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2023)

Year: 2023
Editor: Buck, Lyndon; Grierson, Hilary; Bohemia, Erik
Author: Mattioli, Francesca; Figoli, Fabio Antonio; Wilhelm, Giacomo
Series: E&PDE
Institution: Politecnico di Milano, Italy
Section: Responsible innovation in design and engineering education
DOI number: 10.35199/EPDE.2023.78
ISBN: 978-1-912254-19-4


Design based-learning is a rooted approach to design education through which students learn to design by developing projects within the design studio. The design studio aims to recreate the real-world interactions designers must engage in within a business-like environment. In design-based learning pedagogy, the physical or digital space of the classroom becomes crucial for students to collaborate in developing their projects with lecturers, technicians, and peers. The collaborative environment allows students to develop the competencies needed to solve the design issue at hand, also building their knowledge based on what they learn from others. Among other levels of collaborative learning activities, group projects are often employed to foster peer learning, allowing students to develop high-complexity projects relatively briefly. Teamwork becomes a rich learning opportunity for design-specific and transversal skills. Group projects in an educational context foster collaborative learning, as effective intra-group collaboration becomes crucial for students to develop projects successfully. However, a great emphasis on the team could inhibit the possibility for students to cooperate at the class level. Indeed, as also shown in previous studies, this can lead to competitive class environments which might limit the willingness of student groups to share information and competences with other groups in the idea that helping others could result in a loss for their project and team final evaluation. Inter-group sharing of knowledge is, therefore, sometimes conceived by students as a threat (i.e., the success of others’ projects might compromise the success of our project) rather than an opportunity for improvement. This major shortcoming of competitive inter-group environments becomes particularly relevant in light of the growing recognition of the role of collaboration and cooperation in addressing the complex challenges that await us for the construction of a sustainable present and the near future. From this issue, considered relevant for the conference theme, the authors develop the present research to investigate the role of instructional design activities and instructors in mitigating competition in a business-like design studio in favour of a more effective inter-group collaboration. Having collected evidence of such phenomena in previous research, the authors decided to rethink instructional design activities. The paper presents a critical action research iteration in which the researchers developed and tested an instructional design strategy to foster intergroup collaboration in a business-like design studio. Critical participatory action research is a type of action research that aims to reconsider particular instructional practices starting from their current untoward consequences. The study was conducted in the final design studio of the Design & Engineering Master of Science at [XXX] and involved 51 students divided into 12 teams, and data were collected through participant observation in class (i.e., authors in the role of the teaching staff) and through a final questionnaire at the end of the course. The contribution aims to present the instructional activities designed, providing a hands-on example of possible strategies to foster inter-group collaboration and presenting the emerging themes from the qualitative data analysis.

Keywords: inter-group collaboration; design-based learning; design studio; collaborative learning


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