DS 110: Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2021), VIA Design, VIA University in Herning, Denmark. 9th -10th September 2021

Year: 2021
Editor: Grierson, Hilary; Bohemia, Erik; Buck, Lyndon
Author: Mattioli, Francesca; Ferraris, Silvia
Series: E&PDE
Institution: Politecnico di Milano, Italy
Section: Meeting 21st Century Challenges in Further and Higher Education
DOI number: 10.35199/EPDE.2021.59
ISBN: 978-1-912254-14-9


Collaborative design-based learning is widely employed within academic design education, being recognised as a valuable pedagogical approach historically rooted and yet well established within the design studio pedagogy. In numerous design schools, students - working in small groups - learn to design by designing together. With this setting, didactics provide a space for students to develop both hard skills related to design and soft skills related to more transversal domains such as collaboration, communication, work organisation just to mention a few. However, this great learning potential may not consolidate if it is not well integrated into the didactics. Indeed, in most of the cases, it’s assumed that students are already trained or prepared to work in teams and therefore the design institutions don’t consider a dedicated training path to improve soft skills and to provide proper tools and resources. It has been observed that, while courses to empower the hard skills related to design are usually part of a student’s path, training on teamwork is rarely provided. As a result of this, students have to deal with the challenges of collaboration by themselves (e.g. diversity, disagreements, different backgrounds, different abilities among others), getting frustrated and overcoming the issues not always in the most effective, sustainable or inclusive ways. From this initial observation in the context of the MSc Design & Engineering course at [Name of the Institution], which we are part of as teaching staff, we developed a tutorship path implemented for a group of students along with their entire master programme, both in presence and remotely. The paper presents this experimental research, based on action research methodology which was conducted through the intervention and support of students in different key moments of their training. The tutorship on teamwork has been focused on providing activities to effectively perform initial team agreement, mid-term and final evaluations (i.e. self, peer and team assessments), along with constant support and coaching on team management. All these activities have been designed and provided in parallel to the design studios of the master, meaning that each of them was related to real situations occurring during students’ collaborative work. Qualitative data has been collected through semi-structured interviews to students at the end of the programme together with the documentation of the activities implemented. The interviewees recognised the innovative value of the path and confirmed that, even those who had worked in teams at school before, had never been formally trained on this matter before, and they also stated that after the tutorship path they are more aware on the soft skill acquired throughout the master. The results contribute to providing guidelines for the implementation of a structured training path on teamwork and soft skills in design institutions. Additionally, the research contributes to a wider discussion on soft skills development, with particular regards to teamwork, and on the current challenges of teaching collaborative design in times of transformation.

Keywords: culturally plural teams, design education, design-based learning, tutorship on teamwork


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