A paper presented at the 2012 Design, Development and Research conference. A student’s experience in a tertiary programme should develop the professional skills needed after graduation as well as equip students with necessary skills to navigate real world situations. In the design field students work and learn in an educational design studio which mirrors the working model of professional design industries. Design students’ learning experiences can be investigated from both an external point of view, by establishing the level of student involvement, as well as from an internal point of view through the level of engagement encouraged by the method of teaching and learning. Student involvement, as explored in this paper relates to the framework develop by Astin (1984) in which he states: “Quite simply, student involvement refers to the amount of physical and psychological energy that the student devotes to the academic experience.” If a student is involved they stand to gain more from the educational experience. This experience could further be enhanced by developing an engaging learning situation. The term ‘engagement theory’, as explored by Kearsley and Shneiderman (1999), is grounded in technology based education but can be applied to most learning environments : “The fundamental idea underpinning engagement theory is that students must be meaningfully engaged in learning activities through interaction with others and worthwhile tasks”. The Schlechty Centre (2009) describes students who are engaged by their learning environment as able to learn at high levels with a clear and comprehensive understanding of what is being learnt, as well as being able to retain what they have learnt and that they are able to apply this new knowledge to different contexts . The three characteristics of an engaged learning experience are collaboration, project orientated assessment and authentic (real-world) learning . These characteristics are similar to practical studio based education practices which focus on problem based projects, grounded in real world contexts.
This paper investigates the level of student involvement of Industrial Design 3 students as well as whether engagement is encouraged within the theoretical subjects associated with this programme. To establish the level of student involvement students completed the 2012 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and findings are compared to corresponding data from America, Europe and Australia. The level of engagement experienced by third year Industrial Design students in the theoretical subject was documented through video and photographic ethnography. The aim of the research is to establish whether design students, with varying levels of student involvement, would have a more engaged learning experience in theoretical subjects if the learning experience was collaborative, project orientated and based in a real world context.