Design methods & enquiry-based learning in B.A. Design at the University of Applied Science Schwaebisch Gmuend. Externally funded project by the Ministry of Research, Science and Art Baden-Württemberg.

In 2013 I coordinated as the head of ‘Student Research Teams’ the program at the University of Applied Science Schwaebisch Gmuend. Well known as HfG, the university follows the principles of the HfG Ulm, founded in 1953. The ‘Student Research Teams’ is part of the funding line „Welcome to Science“, funded by the State Ministry of Science, Research and the Arts Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany.

Objective of the two-year program is to motivate students to explore the value of interlacing design methods, scientific work and technology and to research this ‘learning by action’ teaching approach in addition to their further curricula on design theory and design concepts.

»SRT is a concept on enquiry-based learning in B.A. Design 2013-2014.

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Complexity & interdisciplinary solutions

Based on the premise that information alone cannot solve the increasing complexity fostered by big data and economical, ecological and social developments, the program focuses on building interdisciplinary knowledge and processes to address these issues with design methods. The students learn to combine their expertise and apply scientific methods from the fields of design, future studies and empiric social research in order to develop sustainable products or services as well as to reflect on their personal design process.

Teaching Approach

30 students in product, interaction and communication design and from 2nd-6th semester were asked to choose individually from 15 relevant topics (e.g. electric mobility, bionics, organ donation, Africa or motion analysis) and
develop research questions in teams of two. The participants are encouraged to bring in their own fields of interest into the research question. Over the term the participants get weekly input from my side around a wide range of design methods. They then decide which methods to use for their teamwork, hence building their knowledge, as well as decision-making competency. Weekly tasks by the program coordinators ensure that the students are able to transfer the learnings into the teamwork and take responsibility for their project. The teaching approach of the ‘Student Research Teams’ program is based on ‚Learning in Action‘ and ‘Meaningful Experience’. It is building on scientific insights from neuroscience and cognitive science that suggest, that high involvement or personal experience increase the learning results and motivation. Even more was the approach of ‘Meaningful experience’ developed with current participants of the program after discovering the value of this topic in surveys filled in by the students. Due to the fact, that the student teams were working on different topics, the common approach of competition in design curricula was suspended and a culture of collaboration and mutual learning emerged.

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SRT works together with industrial or other external partners to ensure the progress and social relevance of the work.