Engineers contribute to large-scale socio-technical challenges, and human-centered design offers a design thinking approach that helps engineers develop a thorough understanding of the socio-technical effects of their design work. Thus, effective strategies for assessing and teaching human-centered design are needed. This study aimed to identify course characteristics that influence how students experience human-centered design in an introductory systems engineering design course. First, we categorized open-ended written reflections to understand the degree to which students experienced human-centered design. Second, we performed a thematic analysis to characterize salient course experiences for two groups of students: (1) students who experienced human-centered design in a technology-centered (i.e., non-human-centered) way and (2) students who used user input to guide their design thinking and thus experienced design in a human-centered way. Finally, we identify commonalities in course experiences across these two groups of students. Our analysis suggested that most students did not prioritize human-centered design approaches during the course. Most students strived for technical perfectionism, centered CAD competencies, fixated on novel design, and prioritized design decisionmaking tools. However, students who demonstrated human-centered design approaches integrated user research into their design process, valued communication, and expressed feeling a tension between user information and course requirements. While students may complete the same design course, their design experiences will vary. We provide a heuristic that we encourage instructors to utilize to identify students’ ways of experiencing design. Moreover, we encourage instructors to extend study findings to help non-human-centered designers bridge the divide between social and technical knowledge.
Design Thinking; Human-Centered Design; Engineering Design; Systems Engineering
Date of this Version
Sanders, E.A., Goldstein, M.H. & Hess, J.L. Course experiences that promote and inhibit human-centered design. Int J Technol Des Educ (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10798-023-09834-w
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