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Getting Started Select Design Task Learn About Design
Design Pedagogy

Design tasks are different from other classroom activities, like lab experiments, class discussions, or guided inquiry. As design tasks have been used over the years, a unique pedagogy has emerged -- approaches that help students build requisite knowledge and needed skills to do design. This section describes a number of them:

  •  Design Brief  - This 1-page starting point of most design activities broadly defines what a product must do including (criteria and constraints) without indicating how the product should be designed to do so..
  •  Gallery Walk/PinUp/Poster  Janet Kolodner describes these three design-oriented show-and-tell students that can help students help each other with their designing, and give teachers opportunities for formative assessment.
  •  Scavenger Hunt  Collecting a wide range of instances of a product can activate students' prior knowledge, help them make connections to what they are learning, and give them ideas for inclusion in their own products.
  •  Messing About  David Hawkins coined this phrase to describe the hands-on investigations that prepares students to do scientific investigations, and which can also be done as a prelude to designing.
  •  Failure & Design  The proving ground of a successfully designed product is littered with failed ideas. Getting students accustomed to learning from failure is the subject of MIT's Ernesto Blanco's talk.
  •  Product Comparison/History  Conducting a Consumer Report-styled test that compares and rates real-world products is a technological investigation that can help students anticipate problems with their own designs. Also, before designing, students can benefit from researching a product by writing a history of it.
  •  Systems  Identifying in a concrete device different groups of related parts that interact to make up a whole product lies at the heart of Systems Thinking -- and involves talking about how different sub-systems get inputs and feedback from one another in making up a complete system.
  •  Designing Investigations  Almost all designers conduct informal testing of design ideas. In many design-based science curricula, the controlling of variables in testing is emphasized. Vanderbilt's Rich Lehrer makes a strong case that just conducting experiments is not enough. The real challenge is for students to design investigations.
  •  Design Rules-of-Thumb  Find out how students generate advice for other designers called design rules-of-thumb based on the experiments they conduct.
  •  Infer Specs  Analyzing existing products for the specifications they may have been made to fulfill is a rich task that can give students practice thinking as designers do.
  •  Informed Design  Having solid reasons for design decisions, knowing what strategy needs to be done next when designing, and reflecting on what has been done are part of what informed designing entails.
  •  Tradeoffs  Weighing benefits with drawbacks (tradeoffs) when making decisions is a fundamental form of reasoning associated with designing.
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