Self-Reflection: Lessons Learned in a New Product Development Class

[+] Author and Article Information
Jonathan Hey

Berkeley Institute of Design, 360 Hearst Mining Building,  University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-1764jono@berkeley.edu

Alan Van Pelt

 Jump Associates, 101 S. Ellsworth Avenue, San Mateo, CA 94401alan@jumpassociates.com

Alice Agogino

Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-1740agogino@berkeley.edu

Sara Beckman

Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-1900beckman@haas.berkeley.edu

J. Mech. Des 129(7), 668-676 (Feb 24, 2007) (9 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2722781 History: Received November 21, 2006; Revised February 24, 2007

New product development (NPD) classes based around problem-based learning and mediated by design coaches from industry provide an effective vehicle for authentic learning and realistic design experiences within the constraints of academic settings. Little is known, however, about what students actually learn in these courses or whether the learning corresponds to what is required by industry. To address these questions, we: (1) analyzed data from a structured “lessons learned,” or self-reflection, exercise performed by NPD students in a graduate, multidisciplinary NPD class at the University of California, Berkeley each year for the past 6 years; and (2) conducted interviews with our industrial partners who coached the students’ projects. We present an analysis of over 2300 lessons learned and compare the students’ views with the reflections of the industry coaches. In the lessons learned analysis, students highlighted skills for working in multidisciplinary teams as their most important learning experience, and secondarily, within lessons about the NPD process itself, identified the gathering and analysis of customer and user needs. Students commonly referenced skills that are not part of a traditional engineering design curriculum: listening, observation, and performing research in context. The interviews with the design coaches largely confirmed the importance of both the realistic teamwork experience that accompanies NPD and user research skills. Our findings reinforce the importance of providing students with real multidisciplinary team experience for NPD projects and suggest that greater emphasis be given to the teaching and practice of “softer” skills, such as listening, negotiation, empathy, and observation. The research also indicates that more guidance, tools, and frameworks are needed to assist student product developers in the complex task of gathering, managing, and applying user needs.

Copyright © 2007 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Figure 1

Kolb’s model of experiential learning



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