The International Journal ofDesign Educationdesignprinciplesandpractices.comVOLUME 6 ISSUE 2______________________________...
Design Thinking in EFL Context: Studying thePotential for Language Teaching and LearningDebopriyo Roy, University of Aizu,...
THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGN EDUCATIONexclusive focus on page templates, style guides, text-graphic coordination, b...
ROY AND BRINE: DESIGN THINKING IN EFL CONTEXTA Review of the LiteratureLee (2000), while considering the motivational aspe...
THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGN EDUCATIONbased syllabus, functional-notional syllabus, natural approach, etc.) to lang...
ROY AND BRINE: DESIGN THINKING IN EFL CONTEXT• Use all available resources to better understand users ‘requirements (Adkis...
THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGN EDUCATIONbackground in information design, web analysis, but have experience reading E...
ROY AND BRINE: DESIGN THINKING IN EFL CONTEXTInstrumentsThe assignment was posted and responded to in Moodle. Students had...
THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGN EDUCATIONThe questions are based on Garrett’s (2011) model of the elements of user exp...
ROY AND BRINE: DESIGN THINKING IN EFL CONTEXT4. The web pages were chosen in a way to explore whether students paid attent...
THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGN EDUCATIONFigure 4: Oracle Argus Japan Website and its FeaturesFigure 5: Microsoft USA ...
ROY AND BRINE: DESIGN THINKING IN EFL CONTEXTFigure 6: Dell USA Website and its FeaturesFigure 7: Mitsubishi Electric Webs...
THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGN EDUCATIONFigure 8: Japan Tourism Website and its FeaturesFindingsThis article primaril...
ROY AND BRINE: DESIGN THINKING IN EFL CONTEXTthese elements added value. Mostly, the responses in the subsequent weeks rem...
THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGN EDUCATIONThis site makes effective use of web technology and there are many examples. ...
ROY AND BRINE: DESIGN THINKING IN EFL CONTEXTNo. The response of this website is too slow. Users become nervous.There is a...
THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGN EDUCATIONThis site’s resources use real-world situations. When I introduce my country,...
ROY AND BRINE: DESIGN THINKING IN EFL CONTEXTaudience, its overall design of the interface and text-graphics readability. ...
THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGN EDUCATIONFor the inference-based group, the questions were relatively more specific. A...
ROY AND BRINE: DESIGN THINKING IN EFL CONTEXTREFERENCESAdkisson, H. (2002). Identifying de-facto standards for e-commerce ...
THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGN EDUCATIONLightbown, P. and Spada, N. (1993). How Languages are Learnt. Oxford: Oxford ...
ROY AND BRINE: DESIGN THINKING IN EFL CONTEXTintricate procedural and problem-solving activities. He has published widely ...
The International Journal of Design Education isone of six thematically focused journals in the familyof journals that sup...
Design Thinking in EFL Context
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Design Thinking in EFL Context

  1. 1. The International Journal ofDesign Educationdesignprinciplesandpractices.comVOLUME 6 ISSUE 2__________________________________________________________________________Design Thinking in EFL ContextStudying the Potential for Language Teaching andLearningDEBOPRIYO ROY AND JOHN BRINE
  2. 2. THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGN EDUCATION published in 2013 in Champaign, Illinois, USAby Common Ground PublishingUniversity of Illinois Research Park2001 South First St, Suite 202Champaign, IL 61820 USAwww.CommonGroundPublishing.comISSN: 2325-128X© 2013 (individual papers), the author(s)© 2013 (selection and editorial matter) Common GroundAll rights reserved. Apart from fair dealing for the purposes of study, research, criticism or review as permitted underthe applicable copyright legislation, no part of this work may be reproduced by any process without writtenpermission from the publisher. For permissions and other inquiries, please contact<>.The International Journal of Design Education is a peer-reviewed scholarly journal.Typeset in CGScholar.
  3. 3. Design Thinking in EFL Context: Studying thePotential for Language Teaching and LearningDebopriyo Roy, University of Aizu, JapanJohn Brine, University of Aizu, JapanAbstract: Design thinking and incorporating design curricula in the mainstream language teaching in an EFL context isprobably a new pedagogical approach, as the literature indicates. This article undertakes a case study analysis withcomputer science majors in Japan, suggesting that web design analysis situates language acquisition in the targetlanguage through content-based learning and higher order thinking. This design-based language learning approach hasthe potential to promote grammatical understanding through increased writing practice, systematic thinking,schematization, presentation and structured content authoring. As part of the analysis reported in this article, readersauthored open-ended responses to a variety of design and inference-based queries, based on their analysis of a websiteevery week (for 6 weeks). Results provide enough indication to suggest that readers largely understood most of thequestions related to interface design, navigation design, information design, audience analysis, product goals, besidesother design-based queries, but lacked a definite structure and pattern for analysis and thinking, as is often seen inheuristic evaluations. Data suggested that use of structured design rubrics, examples, regular feedback, and practice withweb design analysis might pave the way for more systematic and higher-order thinking in the long run. Structuredthinking in the process, will lead to original text and language production in the target language.Keywords: Design, Language, Content, Web Analysis, Higher Order ThinkingIntroductionhis article is an exploratory attempt to understand whether and to what extent web designanalysis as a higher order thinking process could be integrated in a content-based foreignlanguage classroom in the Japanese higher education context. Is web design analysis aworthy exercise, benefiting students by cultivating substantial thinking skills and helping toproduce original content?Using the Internet for ESL/EFL (English as second/foreign language) writing instructions isa common practice now (Krajka, 2000). The issue of using web pages for teaching writing israised in Tan et al., (1999). Trokeloshvili and Jost (1997) concluded that public displaying ofstudent text on a student home page highly motivates students to conduct writing and publishing,and helps to remove mental blocks associated with publishing ordinary writing. Belisle (1996)argued that networked collaboration like using e-mail and sharing files help learners create,analyze, and produce information and ideas more easily and efficiently. This increased electronicaccess increases social awareness and confidence. Evidence suggests that networking freesstudents from the limitations of traditional writing tools that often inhibit and restrict writing andfeedback processes. With networked writing and analysis, learning is transformed from atraditional passive-listening exercise into active exploration (Belisle, 1996; Krajka, 2000).However, use of different Internet resources for EFL learning contexts have gained momentumfollowing the advent of Web 2.0.Similarly, website evaluations or usability studies have dramatically evolved over the lastdecade or so. They include conceptual discussions on what should be evaluated and how to do it(Instone, 1997; Neilson, 2000). As might be anticipated, web analysis has the potential to be abeneficial exercise (Bunz, 2001; Spyridakis, 2000) and more so in an EFL context.However, it might not be easy to implement web design and analysis practices in an EFLsetting. Students with little English background have a general tendency to produce English textusing translation software, copying from other sources with minimal or reasonable rephrasing(Yamada, 2003). A web design project in that sort of a EFL learning classroom has the potentialto quickly turn into a mundane visual presentation and artifact through excessive and sometimesTThe International Journal of Design EducationVolume 6, 2013,, ISSN 2325-128X© Common Ground, Deborpriyo Roy, John Brine, All Rights ReservedPermissions:
  4. 4. THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGN EDUCATIONexclusive focus on page templates, style guides, text-graphic coordination, but with very littleoriginal text production for the websites. It could be safely considered from in-class observationin this EFL context that during a website analysis exercise which is more analytical in nature (ascompared to web design exercise when considered as a simple text authoring process), studentsread the text and graphics in the web page, besides exploration of the layout and design, andcomment based on what they see and understand. When reporting on website analysis, there isless possibility and opportunity for the reader to copy the text material directly from thewebpages under design investigation, unlike what is possible when analyzing a text from thewebpage directly. During website design analysis, the focus is relatively less on the textualcontent, but rather the designers spend time on the design of text formatting and visualpresentation, graphics, menu and the overall screen design and navigation.So, depending on student capability to produce design analysis, web design exercises mightnot work the way they are originally intended to in an EFL classroom. While usability-based webdesign principles (e.g. style guides, visuals, page layout etc.) are extremely important, making thedesigners (students in an EFL context) explain the choice of design and justify design decisionsin their own words will situate the language learning process in a more authentic context, andlanguage acquisition will become justifiably more enriched. Ideally, web design analysis throughguided writing processes, logically might thus be an acceptable way to get over this problem oflanguage production more as a superficial process of mere text production, without anysubstantial understanding of the content or the context of writing. An analytical focus will helpwriters develop a writing approach, with a sense of why a design process is chosen, what itmeans, how should it be implemented and with what consequences, what it means to theaudience etc. Such procedures are likely to promote higher order thinking skills.Research Focus and SignificanceThe major research question for this study relates to readers’ (students with computer sciencemajors in this EFL context) ability to successfully explain design decisions by studying specificwebsites of interest, in an English language course. Further, the qualitative study as reportedhere, attempts to understand if readers are more comfortable with specific types of design queriesas opposed to others, and fare consistently better or worse over time. This study attempts tounderstand the extent to which EFL readers are able to comprehend different aspects of webdesign, equipped with summative background lectures provided (at the beginning and middle ofthe semester) to make design decisions.This experiment is limited in scope, given how little introductory EFL readers cansuccessfully process, and provides indication as to whether, with more formative assessmentsalong the way in terms of design guidance and feedback, an EFL reader could improve on his/herability to explain design decisions more successfully, and selectively draw from the field of webdesign studies.The website analysis assignment in an EFL classroom is significant for various reasons:1. It allows for a comprehensive understanding of the extent to which readers couldunderstand information organization, design and layout.2. It allows for an understanding of the extent to which readers used meta-cognitiveassessment strategies, and variety of thinking with questions that are broad innature.3. This assignment will help explain the extent to which readers, with their levels ofEnglish language processing ability, and assessment strategies are comfortableanswering certain questions as opposed to others.2
  5. 5. ROY AND BRINE: DESIGN THINKING IN EFL CONTEXTA Review of the LiteratureLee (2000), while considering the motivational aspects of tasks that involve the Internet,describes creating and publishing web pages as one of the most potentially valuable andenergizing exercises.Problem with How EFL Learners Approach English AcquisitionThe study as reported in this article is situated in a Japanese computer science environment.English instruction in Japan (and EFL context) at the secondary and university levels is devotedlargely to readings taught by the translation procedure. This procedure has not been particularlysuccessful, considering the time and energy devoted to it (Kobayashi 1975; Hino 1988;Reischauer 1978; Miller 1982). Most undergraduates who study English, including many ofthose who major in it, cannot use English with any facility; for example, they cannot read wellenough to read English books for pleasure (Robb and Susser, 1989).However, research in Japan suggests that different kinds of text modification facilitatedifferent levels of comprehension (Yano et al., 1994). How does that relate to web page analysis?A web page analysis will often result from uncontrolled and selective text reading based onreader preference and need for comprehension or task completion. Also, some pages willemphasize text, while others might not. Thus, readers automatically and naturally confrontlinguistically variable, simple and complex text.Also, students have other strategies to make reading and comprehension relatively moreeffective. Students in Japanese EFL contexts have extensively adopted meta-cognitive readingstrategies like skimming, scanning, reading headlines, using dictionaries, translation etc. inanalyzing technical texts and results have shown superficial and often surface level ability tocomprehend, analyze and write about a technical text (Roy, 2010), while similar results havebeen observed in other EFL situations (Maghsudi and Talebi, 2009).The above strategies will influence readers’ ability to analyze information organization,design and layout, grouping, navigation, audience analysis etc. Neilson (1997) has demonstratedthat the website analysis task is different from any other reading task, because it requires ananalytical mindset, analysis and resultant English text production in a specific design context.Also, ability to explain a design and layout might not always incorporate reading andcomprehending the entire text in the web page. Readers might get away with merelyunderstanding the headlines, the menu items, the introductory sentence of a paragraph etc.(Neilson’s Alertbox, 1997). The design analysis exercise as reported in this article does not doesnot make it mandatory for readers to have a comprehensive understanding of the text, but it triesto ascertain whether students are able to understand the overall textual context, and efficacy ofthe web design and explain it in English with reasonable success.Importance of Analytical Approach and Higher-Order Thinking SkillsEducators have argued for the importance of promoting higher-order thinking skills in ESL andEFL classrooms (Chamot, 1995; Tarvin & Al-Arishi, 1991) and empirical evidence supports theeffectiveness of teaching critical thinking skills along with English-as-a-second or -foreignlanguage (Chapple & Curtis, 2000; Davidson, 1994, 1995). Spada & Lightbown (1993) hold thatthinking skills operate effectively when students voice their analysis and take part in the learningprocess occurring in the classroom. Although there is little argument among theorists andeducators about the interrelatedness of the development of languages and thinking skills, intypical school settings, language learning and thinking skills are often treated as independentprocesses (Suhor, 1984; Pica, 2000). Language as a way of thinking and learning has remainedmore of a theoretical construct rather than a practical strategy. The Thinking-Approach Project(2004) supported by the British Council criticizes the traditional approaches (i.e., grammar–3
  6. 6. THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGN EDUCATIONbased syllabus, functional-notional syllabus, natural approach, etc.) to language education. Itpoints out the key contradiction that language teachers spend most of their time teachinglanguage competence rather than preparing students for real life situations. Kabilan (2000) alsoargues that for learners to be proficient in a language, they need to be able to think creatively andcritically when using the target language.Content-based teaching is an approach considered by many as an effective way to teachlanguage skills while supporting the development of critical thinking. Through content-basedinstruction, learners develop language skills by thinking and learning in the target language(Brinton, Snow, & Wesche, 1989). Atkinson (1997) and Fox (1994) depict Japanese learners asgroup-oriented, harmony-seeking, hierarchical, and non-critical thinkers.This is where a website analysis assignment as a critical thinking and content-based teachingexercise can be argued to be an important technique worth exploring. Krug (2000) points out thatdesign needs to be intuitive. However, in an EFL context where language proficiency is limited,unless writing exercises demand that design decisions be explained, there is no way an output (asuperior web page designed) in itself could explain whether designers (students in EFL or othercontext) have properly understood the design decisions and broader implications.Van Hoosier-Care (1997) describes the website assignment as a rhetorical exercise in thetechnical communication classroom. It is important for the reader to understand the conceptualprocess of designing a website, include the rationale of the project, target audience, purpose ofthe website etc. (December and Ginsberg, 1995). The main problem with the website assignmentis the time allowed for its completion. If the instructor wants the sites to have any level ofsophistication, usually at the basics of scanning and a graphics program must be taught, pluslectures of conceptual issues such as web credibility, usability, audience targeted message design,visual rhetoric and visual design. Finally, class time must be allowed for students to work ontheir websites. However, even this level of commitment does not always lead to “good” sites(Bunz, 2001). A more practical, different and yet optimal approach might be to assign limitedweb design assignments with design lectures, but with more web analysis assignments.The experimental and goal-orientated nature of web design projects involve tasks such asdeciding with a partner where to place a picture on a page being constructed, or browsing, whichrequires active choices of where to search next. These are claimed to help promote higher orderthinking skills (Mike, 1996), which include reviewing, scanning, selecting and negotiating, andparticularly important for EFL students doing further studies in other disciplines, research andrhetorical skills that may be developed. Furthermore, Warschauer (1997) points out that webdesign skills incorporate ‘situated learning’ that which allows students: “to carry out meaningfultasks, and solve meaningful problems, in an environment that reflects their own personal interestsas well as the multiple purposes to which their knowledge will be put in the future” (Collins,Brown, & Newman, 1989). With the goal of designing and publishing web pages, students canactively make use of new technologies, skills, and knowledge. Warschauer (1997) alsoacknowledges this, and supports the view that many skills, in particular, those that are involvedin collaboratively accessing and interpreting worldwide information, and with peoples fromdifferent cultures, will be critical for success in the 21st century.Web Design PrinciplesCreation of a successful web page should logically involve a proper understanding of web designprinciples. To ensure the best possible outcome, designers should consider a full range of userinterface issues, for the best possible human performance (Koyani et al., 2004). The researchquestions developed for user analysis in this project are based on the following broad guidelines.• Provide content that is engaging, relevant and appropriate to the audience(Spyridakis, 2000).4
  7. 7. ROY AND BRINE: DESIGN THINKING IN EFL CONTEXT• Use all available resources to better understand users ‘requirements (Adkisson,2002).• Ensure that the website format meets user expectations, especially related tonavigation, content and organization (Lynch and Horton, 2002).• If user performance is important, make decisions about content, format, interaction,and navigation before deciding on colors and decorative graphics (Baca andCassidy, 1999).• Consider as many user interface issues as possible during the design process(Zimmerman et al., 2002).Based on these relatively broader guidelines, and the different aspects of user experiencedesign as is evident in the model proposed by Garrett (2011) and shown in Figure 1, specificquestions were designed based on audience and task analysis, product goals, information design,interaction design, information architecture, etc.Figure 1: The Elements of User Experience (Garrett, 2011)MethodsThe sample for this study is typical of any EFL context. The 28 participants in this studydemonstrated pre-intermediate English language processing ability as are evidenced from regularclass observations and similar writing assignments over the semesters and across differentcourses. The participants for the study are computer science majors without any background inwebsite analysis and design. Students have taken other courses in English over the last two yearsof their academic career, but this is their first experience with information and user-centereddesign. This sample represents any population where individuals do not have any specific5
  8. 8. THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGN EDUCATIONbackground in information design, web analysis, but have experience reading English text andprocessing it with strategies (metacognitive approaches) mentioned above.Structure of the Website Design AssignmentAt the beginning of the course (based in the learning management system called Moodle), agroup of 28 computer science students were given a trial website evaluation exercise withdetailed explanation of the questions to be asked during the actual class assignment that followedover the subsequent weeks. The first couple of weeks in the course started with a detailed in-classlecture and moderate in-class discussion, with examples and demonstrations of how websiteevaluation is an important topic with discussions on content analysis, navigation, page layout,etc. The primary purpose was to introduce readers to preliminary concepts in document/webdesign. The introductory practice forum assignment ensured that every student could see whatothers had done and thus adopt/adjust their writing strategy accordingly. Students had over twoweeks to adjust according to the questions, the lectures and to develop more ideas from whatother students had written about. The graded website evaluation assignment did not start until thethird week into the course.As part of the weekly website evaluation exercise, students had eight questions to answer,and submit their assignment in moodle, on topics related to content, navigation, usability,audience analysis, marketability of the website, technical efficiency, etc. The evaluationquestions were indirectly based on a website evaluation checklist designed by Anderson et al.,(1998) at the University of Michigan (used as a reference), but directly based on the web designguidelines and models mentioned in the previous section. However, since this is an EFL webevaluation context, with students possessing limited English language efficiency and reading andcomprehension skills, the questions were modified, trimmed, simplified, and summarized to suitea more efficient level of understanding and task completion. More emphasis was placed onwhether students could understand the overall scope of the questions and had an overall idea ofhow to read/scan through the English website to get an answer.Students went through evaluating one website each week for six weeks. A standard set of 8website evaluation questions were used each week, but the website to be evaluated changed fromone week to the next. Standard corporate websites were chosen for companies that might interestcomputer science students. Every chosen website belonged to brand name companies. Interest inthe content, technology used, scope for research, laboratories, product diversity, marketingstrategies etc. were preconditions on the basis of which the websites were selected for evaluation.Students had a week to consult their group partner and reach a consensus on what might be thebest way to answer each question. Although the format of the assignment ensured that eachparticipant consulted with their group partner, their individual response could differ from theirpartners. Class sessions were observed to ensure that group members did coordinate. However,during grading it was observed that they did differ from their group partner in their response tosome degrees. The website evaluation exercise continued for six weeks with the same set ofstudents. However, following the end of the third weekly web evaluation exercise, students wereasked to present orally on what they completed for the first three weeks. The presentationfocused on a summary discussion of their website evaluation strategies and how they did it.Every person’ s presentation had a short discussion session that followed. This was considered asa formative assessment strategy. The assignment ran through six weeks with repeated practicewith the same set of questions (and evaluation measures) but different websites on broad relatedcontent of interest was conducted to explore whether student performance with web evaluationimproves over time with practice. Weekly discussion sessions were allowed every week in thisrelatively autonomous learning environment with limited structured feedback. At the end of thesixth week of the website evaluation exercise, students were handed out a post-test questionnairewhich was designed to test their reflective self-report of how they approached the website and theevaluation process.6
  9. 9. ROY AND BRINE: DESIGN THINKING IN EFL CONTEXTInstrumentsThe assignment was posted and responded to in Moodle. Students had one week to complete andpost the weekly assignment.Each of the eight questions every week was open-ended and had a minimum word limit ofaround 60 words. Open-ended questions were designed so that participants are able to give voiceto their opinions openly, without being influenced or constrained in any way by pre-definedoptions presented to them, and without being affected by the randomness of the responsesinherent in multiple-choice type answers. Also, open-ended questions captured the sense of howparticipants interpreted each question. It is possible that for a given question, the participantsended up interpreting the question in a way not intended by the instructor. The assessmentcriteria and approach ensured that the subjectivity of the score with each response would beminimized, and would reflect the true quality of the answer consistently across question typesand participants over time (weeks).Figure 2 demonstrated a concept map showing the open-ended questions as posted inMoodle, and also shows the schema under which these questions fit, based on Garrett’s (2011)model. Readers had to answer these questions consistently over six weeks, but each week adifferent website was responded to.Figure 2: Concept Map Showing the Design Categories and Question ClassificationsQuestion (Based on simpler modifications)Q1. Explain whether the organization of information in the site is user friendly or not?Q2. Explain whether the presentation of content is appealing or not?Q3. Explain whether the effective use of technology is demonstrated?Q4. Who is the target audience? Is the website appropriate for the projected audience?Q5. Explain the quality of the content.Q6. Is the information accessible?Q7. Explain whether the resources use real world scenario.Q8. Here are some common reasons for building this website. Rank them order of importance.Doyou have a reason that is not listed?7
  10. 10. THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGN EDUCATIONThe questions are based on Garrett’s (2011) model of the elements of user experience. Thequestions have been generalized and modified to elicit readers’ overall understanding, and for anintroductory EFL context. The responses were evaluated on the basis of whether readers have anoverall understanding of what the model suggests, and/or if the responses touch upon what isintended in the designed model. It is NOT expected in this EFL context, that readers can makefiner differentiations between the responses. A relatively accurate and yet surface level analysis,demonstrating an accurate representation of the design context, was considered acceptable.The 8 questions that students were asked each week were classified into two differentgroups- namely the design group and the inference group. The design group was comprised ofquestions the answer to which could be developed and formulated directly based on observingthe web page design elements like organization, information and page layout, navigation,typography, white space in the pages, etc. Responses to questions in the inference group could bedeveloped based on readers’ understanding of the purpose of the website. There were no directlyobservable elements that made up the response to these questions.Expectation from ResponsesPrimarily, student responses were graded based on the following criteria.Did the readers understand the question completely?1. Did the reader make an attempt to answer the question as was asked?2. Could the reader explain what he/she saw during interaction with the website?3. Is there enough evidence to suggest that the reader made an attempt to understandthe given website?4. Was the answer grammatically reasonable and of acceptable quality?5. Was there evidence to suggest that the reader consulted his group partner? Did theycollaborate on the chosen answer?Other specific details: If it appeared that a significant portion of the text had been copiedfrom an earlier week, without adequate analysis of the website assigned for the week, studentswould be deducted two points from their overall score out of 6, for each question.Other important criteria for assessment were as follows:• Whether students made reference to the website under study, to explicitlydemonstrate that they had taken a look at the website.• Next, readers should have been able to provide some levels of detail regarding whatthey saw in the web page and what they thought it meant. General explanationscould often be recycled from responses in previous weeks and that is why somedetails about the design were necessary in the response for each week.Choice about Web PagesThe web pages were chosen with different uniform criteria in mind, and with an effort tomaintain consistency in terms of content complexity and quality over the weekly assignmenttopics. The web pages were similar in terms of the following:1. Choice of web pages ensured that the companies chosen were dedicated tocomputer science, electronic equipment (a company that might be construed bystudents as a potential employer or seller), or a more general topic of interest to all(e.g., Japan tourism).2. Relative content complexity in terms of the topical discussions.3. Questions were asked at a surface level with focus on navigation design, interfacedesign, interaction design, and overall audience analysis. Understanding the contentin each web page at a deeper level was not important and not a criterion foranswering the questions asked.8
  11. 11. ROY AND BRINE: DESIGN THINKING IN EFL CONTEXT4. The web pages were chosen in a way to explore whether students paid attention andfocused on the major headlines, the menu items, and the graphics in the web pages,the search criteria, the importance of topics, etc., and also whether such items in theweb page were referenced to answer questions, whenever needed.5. To what extent were readers selective in their choice of web page features, payingattention to some features more often, while ignoring some?As mentioned before, every week students worked on a different website. The followingfigures (Figures 3–8) demonstrate the different design features for each of the websites used oversix weeks.Figure 3: IBM Research Tokyo Website and its Features9
  12. 12. THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGN EDUCATIONFigure 4: Oracle Argus Japan Website and its FeaturesFigure 5: Microsoft USA Website and its Features10
  13. 13. ROY AND BRINE: DESIGN THINKING IN EFL CONTEXTFigure 6: Dell USA Website and its FeaturesFigure 7: Mitsubishi Electric Website and its Features11
  14. 14. THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGN EDUCATIONFigure 8: Japan Tourism Website and its FeaturesFindingsThis article primarily reported qualitative analysis undertaken for this study. This sectionreported on the various types of open-ended, retrospective and reflective responses to eachquestion separately. Firstly, the overall response to questions in the design group has beenreported.Responses to Design Group Questions5 questions were asked in the design group and a summary of the major responses is reportedbelow.Q1 - Information design: Explain whether the organization of information in the site is user-friendly or not?Overall, responses throughout the six weeks indicate that participants were comfortablemaking mostly detailed comments about the organization of the website each week. As observed,one popular approach towards the answer was making explicit reference to the major clickableitems in the menu that appeared in the homepage. They referred to items like “populardownloads”, “latest news”, “popular searches”, etc., and then suggested these items added valueto the organization. Reasoning towards the response was mostly missing. Another approach wasto support reasons explaining why the organization of the website might add value to thecustomers.One student responded:I think Microsoft website is user-friendly because the basic structure is clear. The siteused many photos very effectively. Users can see information that matters. However,the font size in web site is too small to be seen easily.In some cases, references to the home page elements and menu items were used as a way tofill up the word requirement for the response, without any appropriate reasoning to suggest why12
  15. 15. ROY AND BRINE: DESIGN THINKING IN EFL CONTEXTthese elements added value. Mostly, the responses in the subsequent weeks remained similar tothe first couple of weeks and there was no significant change in strategies later on.Q2 - Navigation Design/Interface Design: Explain whether the presentation of content isappealing or not?As part of this response, readers were expected to have a strong influence from the previousresponse, as both Q1 and Q2, on the surface might sound similar, although lectures discussed thedifference between these two design questions to a large extent, towards the beginning of thecourse.Different reasons were provided in support of why one thought the website presentation tobe appealing. One participant provided the following reason:Yes, I think this website is appealing. This is because this web site writes at length aboutCore Research Competency. At least I can be interested in Human ComputerInteraction.Another student provided the following explanation:No, because this site is too simple. And characters are too small to read and their coloris neutral. The appeal factor is not clearly explicit in the design.Some other explanations were of the following nature:I think the content of website of IBM Tokyo is appealing. This web site has placedvarious information in details, and I think that even the people, who look at thishomepage for the first time, will be satisfied with this web site content.Most of the arguments by the same participant were consistent across weeks. In most cases,it was clear that readers were thinking along the same line, and drawing arguments based on theinformation they had seen on the surface, mostly the home pages.Q3 - Interface Design/Interaction Design: Explain whether the effective use of technology isdemonstrated.The main purpose of this question was to understand whether readers could explain the typeof technology discussed in the website as a company product, or web-based technology used todemonstrate products in the website. The question was open and participant response was quitediverse.One typical pattern of response discussing company product was as follows:When I look at the website of IBM Tokyo I found various effective technologies thatwas developed in IBM Tokyo and are used in the real world.For Japan tourism website, where technology is not a company product, the same participantresponded as:The site introduces a Japanese sightseeing spot, so I think the effective use oftechnology is not demonstrated in the site.So, for this particular participant, effective use of technology meant any technologydeveloped by the company itself, and if the company website mentions it. On the contrary,another type of response indicated how the website features and affordance suggest efficient useof technology. The response below provides an example.13
  16. 16. THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGN EDUCATIONThis site makes effective use of web technology and there are many examples. Theseexamples are slide pictures, search window, connect Facebook, select language; connectyou tube, select category light bar, etc. For example, slide pictures have big impact andexplain the tourism spot. In another example, search window is convenient to our searchwork. If one is searching for a specific tourism spot, typing tourism name, and searchresult give us the necessary information.Q5 - Text-Graphic Content: Explain the quality of the content.Primarily, as a response to this question a large section of the participants decided to talkabout a specific topic that interested them in the web page. They didn’t necessarily talk about thedesign of the web page, navigation, organization of information etc. The following exampleshows one approach to answering this question.I think this web site’s quality of contents is good. We can understand most content if weread this. I can understand some of the content related to “Human ComputerInteraction”. I understand about the topic “Text-to-Speech”. This content discussed thedevelopment of a speech synthesis technology that generates human voices reflectingvarious kinds of personalities.Some other responses indicated that quality of content for them was measured on a yardstickthat explains the extent to which new technology was discussed in the website, or whether thecompany uses new technology to build its main products. In this specific example for the DELLUSA website, one participant’s response is as follows.This site shows products of computer. But, we cannot see to new technology. This isbecause this company uses other company parts to build computers. Therefore, thiswebsite does not have distinctive advantage. So, quality of the content is not good.The following response provides clear indication that the reader might not have understoodthe real essence of the question. The purpose of the question is not to judge the quality of thecompany product, but the content and its presentation in the company web page. However, withlittle experience of design analysis, the participant might have confused or misunderstood thereal focus of the question. These types of responses allow us to explore the range of thoughts fornovice design analysts.Q6 - Navigation Design: Is the information accessible?From the majority of responses, it appeared that respondents could get a somewhat propersense of what this question intended. In most cases, participants graded a website on the basis ofhow the links worked (mostly from the home page), and the quality of information available inthe linked pages. Participants made a personal judgment as to whether the linked informationappealed to them in any way.Here is an example of a response:Yes, the information is accessible. Because, this website show list of products that isavail- able with other companies and web pages and is linked from the DELL webpage.Customer can intuitively know how to find the page.In the above example it is not apparently clear as to why the participant decided to use theword “intuitively”. It appears that the responder wanted to say that the text in the clickable menuis clear enough to provide an indication of the kind of information available in the linked pages.In some other cases, participants answered this question on the basis of server speed. Thefollowing text is an example.14
  17. 17. ROY AND BRINE: DESIGN THINKING IN EFL CONTEXTNo. The response of this website is too slow. Users become nervous.There is also an indication that some readers prefer to use and value the existence of a“search” bar.This website is easy to get information, because referenced information can be accessedin the same place in the website. In addition, this website have search bar in uppercorner of the screen, and so users can search interesting words and get information.Thus, this website is accessible for people using this website.Overall responses to this question suggested that readers were more comfortable answeringthis design question, rather than some of the other design queries asked before. This wasprobably because questions related to presentation of content, text-graphic content, etc. wererather broad and encouraged a wide range of responses.Responses to Inference Group QuestionsThree questions were asked in the inference group and a summary of the major responses isreported below.Q4 - Audience Analysis/User Experience: Who is the target audience? Is the website appropriatefor the projected audience?Readers were mostly comfortable answering this question. Post-test class interactionssuggested that this question was easy to understand for them, and readers, in most cases, formedan impression about the response from their overall skimming of the webpage content. Thefollowing example about Mitsubishi TV provides an example of the clarity of their responses.I think that this website targets general public. I understand that this website intend tointroduce products of this company. For example, this website writes about introductionof TV and some accessories. I do not think that this information is useful for engineer.Another example demonstrates thorough understanding of the scope of the question.This site’s target audience is mainly non-Japanese nationals, because this site’s top pageis not in Japanese. So, this site is not targeting Japanese tourists. The website isappropriate for the target audience because this website news is updated regularly, andsupports the overall organization of the website. Japan is culturally rich; so manyforeign citizens are interested in Japanese culture. Therefore the website serves thepurpose.Sometimes, the logic and language deficiency impedes the process of explanation, but suchkinds of responses are acceptable for novice design analysts.Q7 - How Practical is the Content? Explain whether the resources use real-world scenario.Responses suggested that this question was quite broad in nature, and readers in most casesanswered it, based on their own personal judgment and understanding as to what it means. Thatis how the question was chosen and framed, with the purpose of encouraging wide range ofresponses.Some students apparently only attempted a very surface-level response, and without anyexplanation whatsoever. The following responses are examples:It is written to use real-world situations. If the site is seen, the reason is understood.15
  18. 18. THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGN EDUCATIONThis site’s resources use real-world situations. When I introduce my country, I only tellthis site URL.In some cases, responses centered on whether the content is for novice users or experts. So,real-world scenario was interpreted in this case on the basis of whether the information isaccessible and useful for potential buyers who are non-experts.I think mainly this website’s information could be used by experts. We don’t use thissite’s information.Alternatively, the question was also interpreted in terms of the company product like JAVAresearch by Oracle and its practical application in real life. The following response is an example.The resources mentioned in the website are used in real-world situations. For example,Java is used all around. Possible applications are cell phone, PC, etc. We useapplications such as games, navigators, calculators, etc. These are created by Java.Another, Java has a wide range of applications in many industries, for exampleconstruction, chemicals, aerospace, financial services, etc. We do not carry theseproducts around. But these services make our life more comfortable.These broad-scoped questions are geared towards making the reader think about a possibleresponse. The question grades were not based on a specific correct response, but rather focusedmore on higher-order thinking.Q8 - Product Goals: Here are some common reasons for building this website. Rank them inorder of importance. Do you have a reason that is not listed?Respondents were in fact, in most cases quite comfortable answering this question and theycould secure a high numerical score for this question. The example below of a response forOracle supports our understanding that higher-order thinking could be promoted with suchinference-based queries.I think that this website is written to provide general and/or product information and I thinkthat it is very important. It is very important that the enterprise explain their product successfully.Sales will go up if a general person learns the product. Successful product or service explanationin the webpage will also encourage people who might be interested in the company, as acustomer or would like to work in the company. This can help the company to increase theirprofit and develop a list of qualified prospects that could be explored further. Name branding isalso very important.Similarly, other responses support various reasons for the existence of the website and whatit can do to improve more participation in the company and how more visitors might find thewebsite interesting. Some explanations border on the initial design queries and appeared to besomewhat recycled, but overall, there are enough indications to suggest that higher order thinkingcould be promoted with these queries. This design study is an example of how content-basedlearning could be successfully initiated in a foreign language classroom with systematic effort.Summary of Quantitative ResultsQuantitative analysis of the weekly web analysis data for this study suggested that readerperformance, for most questions in the design and inference groups, started on a high for the firstcouple of weeks, but mostly for design queries there was a slump in performance for the fourthand fifth weeks, before rebounding a little during the sixth week. This indicates how lack ofpedagogical feedback might impact the score (design performance) in the short run. Further,quantitative data supported the outcome that readers had better understanding of the website16
  19. 19. ROY AND BRINE: DESIGN THINKING IN EFL CONTEXTaudience, its overall design of the interface and text-graphics readability. However, overall datashould still be considered as preliminary and inconclusive, and in some cases showed lesser gripof the more complicated questions related to use of technology and wider use of websiteinformation.DiscussionResponses from different types of questions clearly indicated that readers have spent some timethinking about the possible responses. The primary reason for the decision to use open-endedquestions was to understand the extent and variety with which participants could think about theresponses for any given question. Expectedly, the variety of responses clearly suggests that thisexperiment in the foreign language classroom could be even more successful with regularfeedbacks about the responses and clear structure for the questions with adequate cues suggestinghow the responses should be addressed. The lack of regularly provided detailed feedback duringthe course of six weeks should not be considered as a limitation, but rather an opportunity tounderstand two major things:1. The extent to which readers grapple with sentence-level construction issues vis-à-vis formulating content-based responses for the given queries.2. The variety of thoughts and approach with which readers could approach a givenquery. This open-ended approach is typical in a usability analysis where readersmight be presented with open-ended questions (or think-aloud protocol) toencourage, and subsequently explore readers’ overall thoughts about the interfaceand the task.Surprisingly, although this study has been conducted in an EFL setting, there is no reason tobelieve that such design thinking might be typical for an EFL situation only, and might not holdtrue in a first language situation. Since participants have used translation software to answer thegiven questions each week, in more situations than not, the lack of depth in the response(wherever applicable), should not be misconstrued as a typical EFL language-level deficiencyissue. Rather, the variety, or lack, of response brings to light the fact that irrespective of whetherthe reader is thinking and formulating the response in English or Japanese, language-leveldeficiency in English was not an impediment in the response building process. Rather, the qualityof any response in this situation reveals lack of higher order thinking and holistic comprehensionof the core design issues, which was probably expected in this introductory EFL context.Results and examples of reader responses clearly suggested that answering the design-basedqueries were only a little more difficult than the inference-based queries. However, there waspotential that a hypothesis for this study, based on any previous research could have suggestedotherwise. This is because design-based parameters are directly observable from the website,while inference-based queries are dependent on the extent to which readers could understand thescope and overall purpose of the website. The text content might not always directly indicatesuch understanding of scope and purpose in the website. However, our findings suggestedotherwise because of the broad nature of the design-based queries for the most part. For example,when commenting on the presentation and quality of content, readers were mostly lost as towhere and how to start thinking about the response. Rather, when commenting on the navigationand technology, readers had a relative easy task, because the unit for analysis was not as broad asthe “content” mentioned in the question. The word “content” might mean practically anythingand that makes the analysis harder.On a different level, readers had relative difficulty in understanding the query related toinformation accessibility. Were they mainly not sure about which information was referred to?Was the question referring to any information in the website and the ease with which it could beaccessed? Was the information referring to the products of the company and its explanation?Readers were not provided with a detailed unit for analysis.17
  20. 20. THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF DESIGN EDUCATIONFor the inference-based group, the questions were relatively more specific. Although thatmight not mean it is easier to respond to those questions. The query on audience analysis wasvery specific and responses clearly indicated that readers could understand and respond to themwith ease. However, post-test class interactions suggested that the question on practicality of thecontent was quite hard to understand, and readers freely thought about it in terms of the websitecontent or company products and research items.In summary, it might not be an overstatement to suggest that the goal for this study has beenaccomplished. The major purpose was to explore how design pedagogy could be integrated intothe language curriculum, and this exploratory analysis provides enough indications to suggestthat structured rubric and feedback-based design and inference queries for website analysis mightbe an easy starting point towards content-based learning and developing higher-order thinkingskills.ConclusionWeb design, emails, blogs, social networking, etc. have been extensively used, but mainly fortext authoring in the language classroom over the last decade or so. The major purpose for suchactivities has been to encourage second language learners to write more and more. However,those activities largely overlooked the process by which language learning and thinking could beintegrated successfully. With rampant use of translation software and plagiarizing, the purposefor such exercises might have been lost to a large extent. We needed a platform which largelyprovides original context and a situation where the text content for the queries cannot be authoreddirectly, based on the existing textual content available to the reader (e.g., cannot be copied fromother web sources like online newspapers, articles, Wikipedia, etc.). This is when readersactually start thinking and formulating a response based on their independent thinking styles andthought processes. The quality of response as a starting point should not be overemphasized,firstly because design thinking can take various shapes and typically there might not be a singlecorrect response, and secondly because higher order thinking improves through repeated practiceand sustained engagement in content-level activities that create and promote such thinkingcontexts. Future studies should look into how readers perform with design and inference-basedqueries for situations where specific cues are provided for a query. Does the quality of responseimprove with more definite cues for thinking? Further, other studies could also explore howreaders perform with multiple-choice responses to design and inference-based queries. Anintegrated comparative analysis with data from such studies might yield enriched understandingof the possible design curricula to be introduced in language classrooms.18
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  23. 23. ROY AND BRINE: DESIGN THINKING IN EFL CONTEXTintricate procedural and problem-solving activities. He has published widely in internationaljournals and refereed conference proceedings. He is the current chair of the IEEE Japan Chapteron Professional Communication, and a founding member of the ACM Chapter on TechnicalCommunication and eLearning.John Brine: John Brine (PhD OISE/Toronto) is a Professor in the Center for Language Researchat the University of Aizu, Japan. He held a doctoral scholarship from the Social Sciences andHumanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), following which he was a Japan Foundationvisiting scholar at the Tokyo Institute of Technology and a SSHRC post-doctoral fellow. Hisfellowship continued at the University of Waterloo, Canada where he taught courses in theCentre for Society, Technology, and Values. At the University of Waikato, he co-founded theDepartment of General and Applied Linguistics, and established the first computer-assistedlanguage learning (CALL) courses in New Zealand. His current research interests includelearning management systems, and the side-effects of information media. The Japan Society forthe Promotion of Science has supported his eLearning research collaboration in Vietnam. He iscurrently a Research Associate in the Digital Library Laboratory at the University of Waikato.21
  24. 24. The International Journal of Design Education isone of six thematically focused journals in the familyof journals that support the Design Principles andPractices knowledge community—its journals, bookseries, conference and online community. It is a sectionof Design Principles and Practices: An InternationalJournal.The journal explores aspects of learning to become adesigner and to develop modes of “design thinking”.It explores design strategies, methodologies andtactics. It analyzes forms of professional stance. Andit examines pedagogies of engagement with designpurposes, designed objects and design.As well as papers of a traditional scholarly type, thisjournal invites presentations of practice—includingdocumentation of curricular practices and exegesesanalyzing the effects of those practices.The International Journal of Design Education is apeer-reviewed scholarly journal.ISSN 2325-128X