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The Advanced Design Institute (ADi) works to facilitate a deeper and broader understanding of design as activity and culture. Design activity is the way individuals and organizations continuously create our world. Design culture provides the societal context that supports design activity. In a time of dramatic change and of increased complexity, design culture is more timely and crucial than ever. The purpose of ADi is to advance design culture through public education.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Interesting dissertation on design judgment

Recently I had the pleasure of being at the defense of a PhD dissertation. I was on the committee and have followed the work for some time. The dissertation title is "How is development of design judgment addressed in instructional design education". The dissertation is written by Nilufer Korkmaz and done at the Department of Instructional Systems Technology, Indiana University, Bloomington.

Korkmaz does a serious and ambitious job in exploring different definitions and understandings of design judgment. She does not shy away form quite delicate and detailed definitional issues. At the same time, she tries to develop her understanding in a way that makes the concept possible to study empirically. Korkmaz draws a lot of our book "The Design Way" which is exciting to see, but she also uses many other interesting sources.

The dissertation is a good example of something that is quite difficult, that is, to take a complex concept that is mainly treated in the abstract and in theoretical contexts and to use that in empirical studies. Korkmaz does a good job in examining if and how people do recognize design judgment as an important concept in design and especially in design education. She also tries to find how design judgement is taught and trained in practical educational settings.

This is how Korkmaz argues for the purpose of her research:

"Even though judgment is stated to be a very essential skill, it is rarely a part of formal education (Nelson & Stolterman, 2003). In addition, although a number of scholars have written about design judgment and its significance in design, there is not any empirical study about the extent to which design educators value the development of good design judgment and how it is addressed in the education of design students. If design can be taught and learned and “training and motivation can contribute to the development of a good designer” (Nelson & Stolterman, 2003, p. 292) design judgment must be a skill that can be taught or at least a skill that can be developed when opportunities are provided. With this understanding, the aim of this study is to examine how instructional design educators view and value development of design judgment and what they report in regard to how they help develop good design judgment skills in their students." (page 5 of the dissertation)

We need more research where design theoretical concepts and schemas are examined in empirically in real contexts.