Thinking with your hands tacit problem reframing with interaction design students

Ryan, Alan (2020) Thinking with your hands tacit problem reframing with interaction design students.


This thesis explores pedagogic practice in Interaction Design through the development and
evaluation of a pedagogic methodology for Interaction Design students, specifically the
teaching of problem reframing in design. It describes the process of designing an environment
that simulated the experience of problem reframing through ‘design thinking’, and the findings
from that exploration.
Peter Rowe described ‘design thinking’ as a way of seeing and understanding the world while
bringing about change, to describe the creative process at work in design (1987). For designers,
the specific ability to solve design problems is important. When design problems involve
‘problem reframing’, then the ability to reframe that situation is an essential element of design
ability, of design thinking (Dorst 2015). With the application of what design studies call the
‘divergent’ and ‘convergent’ thinking processes, this resolving of design problems can be
accomplished (Guilford 1967; Lawson 2006).
This thesis explores from a Constructivist/Constructionist perspective, where understanding is
not transmitted to the individual, but is constructed by the individual (Piaget 2013), and where
this mental construction of knowledge is accelerated by building physical objects (Papert and
Harel 1991). This research also explores experiential learning and the issues that surround ‘tacit
knowledge’, knowledge that is difficult to transfer by words or writing and can only be acquired
through practical experience in context (Polanyi 1966).
For a design student to experience solving design puzzles in a simulated environment, the
solution-space of ‘insight puzzles’ was chosen. Insight puzzles have equivalence with design
problems, as both need problem reframing to resolve them (Weisberg 2015).
The design of the pedagogic exploration was informed by a theoretical framework, based on
Self-determined Learning, a macro‐theory of human motivation that focuses on self‐
determined behaviour and the social conditions that promote it, and general Pedagogic
Engagement theory.
The ultimate objective of Interaction Design pedagogy is to prepare design students for their
professional ‘design practice’. Therefore, this thesis is a ‘design study’ (Fallman 2008), aiming
to describe and understand rather than create and change, with the overall goal to contribute to
an accumulated body of knowledge within the discipline of Interaction Design pedagogy.

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