Sustainability in the Product Design Curriculum; Evaluating the Effectiveness of Integration in Project-based Learning

DS 69: Proceedings of E&PDE 2011, the 13th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, London, UK, 08.-09.09.2011

Year: 2011
Editor: Kovacevic, Ahmed, Ion, William, McMahon, Chris, Buck, Lyndon and Hogarth, Peter
Author: Green, Clare Ruth
Series: E&PDE
Section: Sustainable and Universal Design
Page(s): 343-348


This paper presents a case study in the context of experiential learning in product design teaching at university level. In the "Basic Design" cycle, years one and two in the product design specialisation, at the ISD (Institut Supérieur de Design) Valenciennes, France, the study of sustainability issues is integrated into the core project based design module. The overall aim of this 2-year experiential module is the acquisition of methodology to be applied in more autonomous projects in the second cycle (years 3 to 5). Sustainability is considered a key subject within this module and by introducing students to environmental issues related to design early in their training it is hoped that they will intuitively apply a sustainable design approach to all subsequent projects. The fact that the content of this core module has remained quite stable for a period of 8 years, particularly in the final 4 (out of 6) trimesters, provided a valuable opportunity for a long term overview and evaluation. This paper summarizes initial findings of a qualitative survey based on feedback from students and ex-students at different stages of their academic and professional careers, focusing on recollections of the design project module in years one and two of their studies. The results highlight a range of points that appear to have had a positive impact on the learning experience. Elements of teaching and learning which may help to embed a "sustainability reflex" are identified, as are other useful insights into the effectiveness of this experiential module. One example is the case of teamwork, a key feature at the ISD, which seems relevant in teaching sustainability; facilitating group discussions and enabling larger and more complex projects than could be undertaken by individual students. The value of this aspect of teaching is confirmed by the analysis of the survey, whilst also indicating some potential for improvement.
This article allows the above-mentioned module to be examined in terms of current academic research on experiential learning, on the specific issues related to teaching in creative subjects and concerning the introduction of sustainability factors.

Keywords: Design Education, Sustainability, Experiential learning, Student feedback, Teamwork


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