Fostering *reflection and social support in design critiques
Denise Conanan Nacu, University of Michigan, United States
University of Michigan . Awarded
Design critiques, or social interactions in which designed artifacts are analyzed and evaluated, can be powerful vehicles for developing design expertise because they engender the thinking that is needed to solve complex, ill-formed design problems. Previous research indicates that critiques can benefit participants by provoking articulation of design rationales and ideas, analysis of design problems, and reflection on design criteria and practice. Reflection, self-reflection (conceptualized as an introspective type of reflection), and social support are identified as three mechanisms that can be activated in critiques. While there is theoretical and empirical support to the notion that critique activities can be beneficial for learning design, there remain many questions about organizing critiques within a curriculum. The purpose of this research was to investigate how to construct critique activities in ways that foster these mechanisms.
Two cycles of research were conducted on two graduate-level curriculum implementations in the domain of educational software design. Using critique transcripts and student interviews as primary data, this study examined how students engaged in different types of face-to-face and computer-supported design critiques. Studio Zone was introduced as a web-based, asynchronous discussion tool to explore the potential of computer-supported critiques.
The analysis of activities designed to support self-reflection revealed that students articulated, revised, and elaborated criteria for evaluating design over time. This process established the conceptual groundwork needed for students to participate in critiques. Variation in the reflection and social support that occurred in different critique activities was related to particular critique features, student perceptions of critiques, and characteristics of the instructional and social contexts. Affordances and drawbacks of using asynchronous and face-to-face communication modes for critiques were also identified.
The results of this work are brought together in a design framework that provides principles and guidelines for coordinating productive critique activities. This framework calls for fostering a supportive culture of critique, building shared criteria and self-reflection, aligning critique features with pedagogical goals, and coordinating critiques within a coherent curriculum. This framework is relevant to learning environment designers and researchers in domains that incorporate critique activities into curricula, whether technology is used or not.
Nacu, D.C. Fostering *reflection and social support in design critiques. Ph.D. thesis, University of Michigan.
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