DS 95: Proceedings of the 21st International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2019), University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. 12th -13th September 2019

Year: 2019
Editor: Bohemia, Erik; Kovacevic, Ahmed; Buck, Lyndon; Brisco, Ross; Evans, Dorothy; Grierson, Hilary; Ion, William; Whitfield, Robert Ian
Author: Tessier, Virginie; Mithra, Zahedi
Series: E&PDE
Institution: Universite de Montreal, Canada
Section: Assessment 1
DOI number:
ISBN: 978-1-912254-05-7


This article adopts a sociocultural perspective, based on a Designerly version of Activity Theory, to propose a coherent framework in response to the challenges of assessing collaborative design.

In reaction to the transforming requirements of professional designers, educational establishments need to adapt their pedagogical strategies and offer students collaborative projects during their training as this approach is now a widely-spread practice for innovative companies. Many authors conclude that efforts are needed to ensure its proper integration and successful unfolding for the learners. An important challenge to the comprehensive integration of collaborative design in learning situations resides in its proper, fair and coherent assessment. A number of gaps between the intention and the implantation of collaboration are identified. First of all, a gap is noted between the conditions of social learning and those of individual assessment. This raises interrogations about the conflicting paradigms guiding traditional assessment practices and contemporary socio-constructivist learning strategies. Secondly, another gap is found when assessing the value of a final team product over the complexity of the collaborative design process. While design is a social process (Bucciarelli, 1988), the assessment of a single final stage is puzzling.

Referring to the authors’ previous studies, Activity Theory (AT) propose unexplored avenues towards the coherent assessment of collaborative design. The theory brings to light the operative components of an activity and the tensions persisting amongst its components (Engeström, 1999). In harmony with collaborative dynamics, AT seeks the active participation of actors in reaching systemic comprehension of sociocultural and organizational issues to propose coherent solutions. The sociocultural perspective is based on the concept of mediation according to which an interaction is never direct, but always mediated by a third component of the model. In a team assessment context, mediation allows the ‘re-socialisation’ of the object being assessed (Morissette, 2009), encouraging the emergence of a discussion space between the assessor and the team. AT recognize the benefits of such formative interventions through the concept of “knotworking”, defined as a form of collaboration emerging from a shared object: from unorganized collaborative efforts toward an expanded object – in our case assessment (Sannino & Ellis, 2014; Engeström, 2015). Formative interventions allow to revise incomplete or invalid knowledge and enhance learning by motivating reflective and critical thinking within the educational activity. Adopting a sociocultural perspective, this article will seek to investigate the following questions: What should be the object of assessment emerging from the re-socialisation process of a collaborative project? And, how should it be assessed? The introduction of the new Designerly interpretation of Activity Theory (d.AT), will allow to frame an assessment strategy on its strong theoretical foundations. In brief, the strategy aims at actively involving teams of learners to assess collaborative design in a coherent manner according to the emerging distinctiveness of these complex learning situations. The assessment strategy evolved around the 13 components of the d.AT model. The article will propose clear definitions of each of the components in order to propose ways to implement those within the design project-based learning pedagogy.

Keywords: Assessment, Collaborative design, Design education, Activity theory


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