Educating Critical Thinking in Design Research

DS 74: Proceedings of the 14th International Conference on Engineering & Product Design Education (E&PDE12) Design Education for Future Wellbeing, Antwerp, Belguim, 06-07.9.2012

Year: 2012
Editor: Lyndon Buck, Geert Frateur, William Ion, Chris McMahon, Chris Baelus, Guido De Grande, Stijn Verwulgen
Author: Almendra, Rita Assoreira
Series: E&PDE
Institution: Faculty of Architecture, Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal
Section: Postgraduate Design Education
Page(s): 717-722
ISBN: 978-1-904670-36-0


This paper presents a study done in 2010 as part of a course named design critics that integrates the curricular year of a Design PhD program in a Portuguese University that works according to the Bologna Convention. The main aim of the course (that had 21 students) was to provide PhD students with the competences of critically framing theory in their research projects. Therefore, the course offers an ample perspective of design based upon a holistic humanistic/social sciences approach that relies on knowledge coming from areas such as design theory, design history, design criticism, anthropology and sociology. Nowadays, in all the cycles of design education (undergraduate, master and PhD) research has gained expression especially through the teaching of courses related with research methodologies and methods. The problem is that it is hard for the students to capture the way information can be selected, interpreted and used in a way that it really contributes to expand knowledge in this domain area. Being so, one of the modules of the course is dedicated to critical information management and is supported by the development of an exercise done with a research paper. The activity comprehends the training of both analysis and synthesis competences, the understanding in practice of deductive, inductive and abductive reasoning, the application of both rational and hermeneutical processes. Among the parameters to be evaluated in this exercise the abilities of establishing fluxes between theory and practice, of relating phenomena, of having a qualified speech and communication and of building new information are decisive to accomplish the desired critical thinking in design. As a result of this work students developed their own tools allowing them to efficiently and critically select, classify, organize and operationalize the use of information. A survey conducted among the students one year after the course evaluated the retention of the contents given as well as the learning effect, i.e. the use of the methods proposed.

Keywords: Critical thinking, design research, information management


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