An Investigation of Adaptive Expertise and Transfer of Design Process Knowledge

[+] Author and Article Information
Ann F. McKenna

 Northwestern University, 2133 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60202mckenna@northwestern.edu

J. Mech. Des 129(7), 730-734 (Feb 23, 2007) (5 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2722316 History: Received November 17, 2006; Revised February 23, 2007

Transfer of knowledge is a common and ongoing area of investigation in many education studies. The topic is of central importance to the education community because it enables educators to understand how knowledge learned in one context can apply, or transfer, to new contexts. This is particularly important in the context of technological innovation and design education. That is, design often requires the generation of solutions that do not already exist. Generating unique solutions requires the ability to recognize when previous knowledge or learning is appropriate, and then to accurately apply previous learning to novel situations. Furthermore, focusing on transfer of knowledge brings a learner-centered approach to education such that learning experiences are designed to reinforce and to build on students’ prior knowledge. This paper presents results from a study that measured the type of design process knowledge that gets transferred into and out of design-focused courses. The study included approximately 100 students in three different courses: one freshman and two upper-level design courses. Results from this study shed light on the nature of students’ design process knowledge, as novice (freshman) as well as more experienced (junior and senior) student designers. In addition, study results show significant increases in pre- and post-measures of design process knowledge as students advance in the curriculum. Finally, we describe our findings in the context of an emerging framework for instruction and assessment: adaptive expertise. The concept of adaptive expertise is relevant to design education since it presents a model that guides the educational experience to have a balance of gaining technical proficiency with opportunities for applying one’s knowledge in innovative ways.

Copyright © 2007 by American Society of Mechanical Engineers
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Grahic Jump Location
Figure 1

Adaptive expertise as a balance between two dimensions for learning and assessment: efficiency and innovation

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Figure 2

Aspects of efficiency that contribute to developing design solutions

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Figure 3

Pre- and post-responses for first-year EDC course

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Figure 4

Comparison of first-year data to pre-data in two upper-level courses



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