Design Decision Making: Seeing Informal Making as Design
INTRODUCTION: Academic makerspaces hold the promise of providing students with greater access to informal design experiences. While we recognize the value of interest driven self-directed learning, the design experiences of students pursuing projects in academic makerspaces outside of scaffolded coursework is not well understood.
BACKGROUND: This work is part of a larger study examining the making experiences of undergraduates working on self-directed projects in a university makerspace. Previous results suggest that as novices, students do not find design to be accessible and do not recognize the makerspace as a place that supports design learning. Students do, however, report making a number of decisions about their projects that may serve as a window into increased understanding and awareness of their design process
RESEARCH QUESTION: To better understand student’s design processes when engaging in interest-driven self-directed learning in university makerspace, we examine the decision making process of one student, pseudonym Lindsey, as she engages in making glowing bean bags over the course of 10 weeks. What kinds of decisions is she making? What kinds of options does she see for these decisions? What kinds of criteria does she see? And where does she get this information from?
Setting: A group of 7 students at a large public university engaged in material inquiry (self-directed learning through an interest based sewing project) over ten weeks in a university makerspace. Students documented their individual creative process through journals of field notes and reflection entries. Students then engaged in weekly group discussions and analysis on their creative process. One student’s field notes are used as the focus of this study.
Using a-priori definitions, a team of 6 researchers identified instances of Questions, Options, Criteria, Sources of this information, and the relationships between them in one students field note journal. The same 6 researchers then open coded these instances, generating a hierarchy of code categories for each. Descriptive statistics were then used to look at relationships across each category.
FINDINGS: Preliminary finding show that 1) Lindsey makes a number of decisions about her project, despite not feeling particularly involved in the design of this artifact, and explicitly choosing a project with a tutorial in order to offload decision making . 2) Lindsey provides rationale for these decisions in a way that can be seen framed through the lens of engineering criteria and tradeoffs. 3) There are similar categories of decisions, options, and criteria found throughout the documented field notes. For example, when considering buying materials common questions include what kind, how much, where to purchase, when to purchase. 4) There are gaps between the questions, criteria, and options Lindsey articulates and what an expert might consider or we might explicitly teach in engineering design. For example there are several instances where Lindsey could have calculated a quantity but she does not.
Because students are making decisions even though they don’t always see themselves as designer, decision making holds the promise of being a productive frame for helping students 1) track and be more aware of their design process 2) see themselves as designers, and 3) link their informal making experiences to engineering design concepts.
Future work includes looking across more students’ experiences and developing tools to help students track and identify their design process through decisions.
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