Towards Understanding Design Expertise as a Developmental Dynamic: A Learner's Perspective

By Tanja Golja and Lynette Schaverien.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The capability to design, and thereby shape a culture’s ascent over time, might well be one of the most basic characteristics of what it is to be human. Cultures value successful designs; hence the urgency of understanding the principles and practices that underpin design success. One approach to gaining insights into design has been through exploring the processes of proficient, experienced designers, often in comparison with those of novices. However, researchers are beginning to question the worth of such investigations, arguing that they tell proficient designers little more about design than what they already know from their practice. Nor do they give an account of how these so-called experts might develop their design practice over time in response to emerging needs, pressures or opportunities, for example, so as to design sustainably, in circumstances of resource shortage or with new technologies. Moreover, such studies risk a far too stark and static a priori dichotomy between novice and expert, simply on the basis of their experience at a point in time, suggesting the need to look more closely at how people might develop their design capability.

This paper reports preliminary findings of the first part of a doctoral study by a learner-as-researcher, who sought insights into the nature of design by documenting her own developing learning to design over a university semester in an undergraduate architectural design class. Here, we give a brief account of the first phase of her learning to design as a participating member of this class community. We describe some of the design ideas she generated, her early perceptions of designing in this context and some actions she subsequently took, alongside the developing ideas of other students and in response to teacher critique. We speculate on the power of this approach to understanding designing, including how it might inform the teaching of design and the creation of environments conducive to designing.

Keywords: Learning to Design, Design Expertise, Undergraduate Architecture, Teaching Design

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 1, Issue 4, pp.131-144. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 3.371MB).

Dr. Tanja Golja

Institute for Interactive Media and Learning, University of Technology, Sydney, Broadway, NSW, Australia

Tanja Golja is a doctoral student in the Faculty of Education, researching the fruitfulness for Education of the concept of design. As part of her responsibility as an academic developer within the Institute for Interactive Media and Learning, Tanja works closely with academic staff in the Faculty of Design, Architecture and Building, collaboratively seeking to enhance the Faculty’s design and successful provision of rich learning opportunities for students within the designing disciplines. As a graduate of the foundation cohort of the Master’s degree in e-learning, Tanja takes a special interest in online environments and currently oversees the university’s design and use of its customised Blackboard e-learning environment.

Dr. Lynette Schaverien

Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, University of Technology, Sydney, Lindfield, NSW, Australia

Associate Professor Schaverien is an active researcher in science and technology education, with a special interest in understanding the design of theoretically sound e-learning environments in a range of disciplines. In recent years, she has led two sizeable and successful Australian Research Council projects in which students and teachers respectively have designed acclaimed and radically innovative e-learning environments in which others can engage with scientific, technological and educational questions of high interest to them. In both these projects, designing and learning to design are of key interest at two levels: in participants’ shaping of the environments themselves and in researchers’ enactment of a research process to nurture and understand it. She has also led the design, development and teaching of a market-leading suite of postgraduate e-learning courses, in collaboration with her university’s Institute for Interactive Media and Learning.


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