Dym, C. L., Agogino, A. M., Eris, O., Frey, D. D., & Leifer, L. J. (2005). Engineering design thinking, teaching, and learningJournal of engineering education94(1), 103-120.


The purpose of this article was to highlight in details the scopes of design thinking and explain the difficulties of learning and teaching design thinking. The authors described the complex pathway of design thinking in engineering education context. Various research on how to provide thriving learning experiences via design thinking skills were described.  The identified design thinking features that good designers have included: (a) convergent and divergent questioning, (b) system thinking and system designs, (c) making decisions, (d) collaborating with team members, and (e) communicate in several languages of design. The authors also designated project- based learning as the most favored pedagogical design model. The authors conclude with recommendations for future research that aim to foster design learning.

Summary of Key Points

  • Design Thinking as Divergent- Convergent Questioning
    •  The first step of any design thinking process is asking questions
    • Questioning is indispensable part and takes place at various stages of the design process.
    • Questions aim at deep reasoning about a specific object and an operational inquiry process follows.
    • Each designer’s thinking process and reasoning may be unique.
    • Convergent thinking: Questions have specific answer that hold truth.
    • Divergent thinking: Questions have multiple alternative answers, not concerned with verifying any truth.
    •  Convergent thinking is concerned with the knowledge area whereas divergent thinking is concerned with concept domain.
    • Design thinking falls on the continuum of transformation between concept domain and knowledge domain.
  • System Thinking and Design Thinking
    • Think about the bigger picture by integrating system thinking and design.
    • Interactions between different parts of the design process is integral for the dynamics of the system
  • Decision Making
    • Throughout the design process, designers develop frameworks and make rational decisions accordingly.
  • Design Thinking as a team in a social process
    • Several research studies highlighted the importance of working and thinking in teams while designing.
  • Communicating in several design languages
    • Languages are utilized in design practices in several ways such as: verbal or textual statements, graphical representations, shape grammars, and analytical models.
  • Design Pedagogy and Project- Based Learning
    • Project based learning aligns with the idea of convergent and divergent thinking.
    • Two forms:  (1) design-oriented project-> concerned with know how/ designing based on synthesis of knowledge from different disciplines and (2) problem-oriented project -> concerned with know why/ using any relevant knowledge to solve theoretical problems.
    • A better understanding of design thinking processes informs design pedagogy.

Discussion Questions

  • 1- How do we identify the design thinking skills of good designers?
  • 2- What is the design pedagogy employed in design projects?
  • 3- What are the different scopes of design thinking?

 Additional Resources : Design Thinking Playbook https://www.design-thinking-playbook.com/




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