Human-centered design methods and design thinking are increasingly promoted beyond the traditional creative design disciplines. These approaches are touted as tools for enhanced creativity that help align technical problem solving with actual human capabilities and experiences and result in more innovative outcomes. Engineering education, in particular, has been impacted by the rise in use of design approaches, largely for the better. However, design tools often exist in tension with mainstream approaches to conveying engineering knowledge to students, based as they are in the pursuit of “rigorous” quantified, universalized solutions. This paper explores some of the promises of design pedagogies for innovating engineering education as well as how these same approaches can contradict mainstay engineering educational assumptions and pedagogical frameworks. The paper concludes by reflecting on the extent to which engineering and design approaches are incommensurable and where opportunities exist for meeting in the middle.
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