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Design Process Complete


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Design Process Complete

  1. 1. Investigation Through Design Often, student investigations are not simply created to find an answer to a question, or to explore some phenomenon. Rather, science is often used to create solutions to problems through application of scientific concepts and principles to a real-world situation. This is the work of applied science and engineering. This activity is designed to examine aspects of a design-based investigation as a strategy for learning and exploring different phenomena. Design projects often take on a different set of procedures that vary somewhat from the standard “scientific method” to which we are all so accustomed. Often, such projects may appear to be very much like the investigations we have all focused on as a way to support authentic student learning. However, there are some significant differences in the process. The following materials are intended to help you better understand the Design Process, and how you might consider using a design activity as a way to build understanding and assess student learning, The Design Process Design is a process that we use to solve problems, whether we are cognizant of the process or not. We often try coming up with processes, solutions, etc. without really thinking through all possible ways to address a problem, and then actually try things out. Sometimes we succeed in what we want to accomplish; most of the time we donʼt. When we donʼt, we usually tinker with something and try it again, or, ideally, try to learn a bit more about the situation or issue we are trying to address, then tinker and see what happens. In science and engineering, there is a more formal process that takes place, but it is still very similar in process to what we do. In a classroom, this process can be represented by the diagram below. Design is a cyclic process that involves research, concept development, design and building, and testing or feedback. Each iteration is intended to help refine the process or add a new factor to consideration in the design. These steps are outlined in detail on the following page: MMSTLC Science Resources (10/07) 1.4 Design-based Student Investigations
  2. 2. 1. Identify and Define Design Context. This is the initial step in any design project, and one that you will want to address specifically with students at the outset of any project. This is also, most likely, going to be developed by you, the teacher, for any project you have students do in the classroom. This includes the following: • Identifying the goals of the product. What is it supposed to do or accomplish? (What is the function of the item?) • Identify the context for the product. Are there specific needs or conditions that you need to work with for the product? • Define the design goal/outcome. State what you are creating, what you will develop to get there, and what the intended outcome is. This also identifies the guidelines for assessment of the success of the design. This might also address the form of the product, which is what it should look like. • Define the context and conditions for the design. What are the constraints that you are working with to complete the design? These might include time, personnel, resources or supplies, and other constraints about the use of the product. 2. Research and Learn New Content. Like the student investigations we addressed earlier in this program, one of the critical steps before the actual design or investigation can be done is to gather information and build understanding of content relevant to the design. This may take the form of benchmark lessons that you, the teacher, lead to help build a common foundation of knowledge and understanding among all students, or it may be individual or team research that students undertake to gather information and ideas about the problem. This research can also focus specifically on the product itself and not just the conditions for the design. Research might examine the following: • Existing Designs. What have others designed or considered in the past? • Conditions for Use. Where will the product be used and for what purpose? • Components. What parts make up the product? • Materials. What will the product be made of? What do we need to know about this? Often, a design might include many cycles, each of which is intended to look at a different aspect of a problem. For instance, design of a building might first include design for the basic structure, but then address a different factor, such as heating/cooling, energy, or lighting in the next iteration of the design. Doing this can often help you specify what benchmarks and content you need to address with each cycle. 3. Develop Personal or Team Ideas. The is where students can generate ideas about the design based on the information gathered in the first two steps. You may wish to incorporate an individual brainstorming activity first, so that all students can get ideas on paper. Something as simple as a bulleted list of considerations can be useful here. Then, if working in groups, it can be useful to have a group “brainstorming/editing” activity where ideas from individuals are shared and refined or modified into a group list of ideas. This two- step strategy can often help groups develop better, more thorough lists of ideas, whereas moving immediately to the group can result in ideas only being generated by the more dominant personalities. Often, students want to immediately jump to this step, and so it is often useful to have a quick set of questions for any students to address at this point about their design ideas. Asking how the questions identified in steps 1 and 2 are addressed by their ideas can help students better understand the importance of these issues. MMSTLC Science Resources (10/07) 1.4 Design-based Student Investigations
  3. 3. 4. Design and Build Models or Artifacts. This is the step where students will actually design the product, or some model of the product. This can include tangible three-dimensional objects, or sketches or drawing that are very clear about the design considerations, dimensions, or other factors in the design. Build in time for such activities, and if groups are involved, the time on task and nature of the task should “fit” the number of people working on the task. 5. Feedback Activities: Testing, Critiquing, and Pin-ups. The intent of this final phase of the design process is to gather feedback that will become the information from the actual model or artifact created that is used in the next cycle of the design. This feedback can be generated in a variety of forms, and may include the following activities, individually or grouped together to provide such feedback. • Scientific testing. This would include performing any tests or experiments to ensure that the artifact works for the conditions provided, and to identify any possible problems which might exist that could be addressed in the next iteration of the design cycle. This is a good opportunity to focus students on data collection and observations. • Usability / Feasibility testing. While the above item is intended to deal with the scientific phenomena that are addressed in the project, one of the other aspects of building an item to solve a problem is doing any testing for usability. For instance, you could design a tool to address a specific problem, but if the materials to build that tool cost more than alternative solutions, it is not likely to be considered as the final design. This type of testing is likely to be done by analyzing data or making observations about the creation of the object, rather than specific testing of a variable using scientific means. • Critiques. This can take many forms, but the main goal is to get subjective feedback about the design that might be used to enhance the design in the next cycle. When working with students, it it important to frame such feedback in a constructive manner that is not judgmental of the designer, but rather focuses on aspects of the design. It can often be helpful to use a set of guiding questions that are generated by you, experts, and/or the class. • Pin-ups. This is a specific form of critique that is used often in design fields, such as engineering and architecture, especially when working with sketches or drawings of an object. This strategy has students post their drawings of the design on the wall around the room, inviting feedback from others. The feedback can be provided on note cards that everyone completes during a walking review of each item, a poster sheet next to each design inviting comments, or verbal feedback if the designer is present. If structured well, you can actually invite students to sketch new suggestions on the design itself. The pin-up method is often a relatively quick way to provide feedback and opinions from others, especially if early in the design process. • Presentations. Another way to solicit constructive feedback can be to have each design be presented to the rest of the group. This can provide considerable feedback if students are used to verbal critique, but is usually a time-intensive process that might be reserved for the final design, else it can drag out the design process considerably. The design cycle then begins again, though the difference is that the second (and all successive) iteration actually has a design to work with. As a result, steps 1 and 3 are often much shorter in the process, and more attention is paid to the design, model, and critique. MMSTLC Science Resources (10/07) 1.4 Design-based Student Investigations
  4. 4. Design as a Learning Strategy Introducing a design project in a class can be challenging and time consuming for all involved, but can be truly beneficial to students in a variety of ways. The following aspects of design are very useful to further student learning, and are worthy considerations if you are debating use of a design project in your classroom. • Design is Purposeful. Students are often asking about the relevance of a particular topic. Using a design-based project often provides a very clear picture of how the topic being studied can relate to real life practices. This can also provide an anchor for you as a teacher as a clear “end goal” of a project if you are designing the curriculum yourself. • Design is Deliberate. People don’t design something by chance, unlike the process of observation. Because of this, design has a natural iterative cycle that is often used to carry out the purpose of the design. This cycle can provide an organization process and habits of mind for students that encourage higher-order thinking skills. Often, design is viewed as a particular strategy for problem solving, which is so often mentioned as a skill lacking in many students. • Design is Creative. Unlike scientific investigation, which can be extremely focused on method and procedure to ensure scientific validity in results, design allows students to flex their creative muscles in a way that is not often presented in science classes. Students enjoy this creativity, and this can be a great way for teachers to also practice facilitation (as opposed to direct instruction), as design projects make it extremely hard to be teacher directed. For this reason, a design project might be a particularly effective way to encourage a teacher who struggles with an inquiry approach to instruction to “let go” and focus more on student work and less on “correct answers”. • Design is Naturally Collaborative. Unlike finding a scientific fact or truth, design is an applied task that does not have a correct answer. Rather, it requires compromise from all involved. The review process necessary for effective design requires feedback for others. As a result, design tasks often encourage effective collaboration toward an end, though this is one area where effective facilitation skills are necessary to ensure that feedback is appropriate and constructive, and that the design process itself, when done in groups, is collaborative in nature. • Design is Complex. Unlike scientific investigations that are often seeking to isolate variables, design often has to deal with multiple variables at one time for a workable solution. While this can, at times, be to the detriment of student understanding (if they haven’t worked out how all of the factors work together, or how the science of a set of factors actually works), it also can get students to begin thinking in systems, rather than individual factors. • Design Can Fail... And that’s okay! Once of the main criticisms of modern instruction in math and science in the U.S. is that we often focus on just getting the correct answer, and that coverage of content standards in a short time limits the ability of students to learn from failure. But, the point of the design cycle itself, and the reason we can go through the cycle many, many times, is because we can EXPECT failure. What we want is to encourage finding failure and learning from it, preferably early in the process, so that we don’t get the tragedies of projects that have not been thoroughly tested. (think Space Shuttle or Hindenburg, among others). • Design is More Authentic. The process of design actually is much closer to the ways in which we all think, and the ways in which scientists working with authentic problems develop practices that lead to discoveries. What better way to illustrate to students the kind of work that an engineer orequiring a design solution. MMSTLC Science Resources (10/07) 1.4 Design-based Student Investigations