Building Critical Thinking Capacity Through Sustainable Design Education
Dale L. Murray, Assistant Professor of Industrial Design - College of DAAP | University of Cincinnati
M. Ann Welsh, PhD, Associate Professor of Management – College of Business Administration
At the University of Cincinnati Industrial Design Program we have been teaching studio courses focused on principles of sustainable design since 1998. Our experience has shown us that the topic is impossible to adequately address in isolation. It is an undertaking that must be multi-disciplinary to create truly sustainable design solutions. Developing a community of practice centered on the goals of sustainable product design and development is the only viable strategy for success.
We have accrued much experience in teaching multi-disciplinary studios, the most recent being Inventureworks, which was the subject of an article published in these proceedings last year. That studio included students from digital design, industrial design and business, to design a custom coffee vending system for Procter & Gamble. The excellent results from that experience led to this proposal for a multi-disciplinary collaborative studio we call the Ecollaborative. Participants in the Ecollaborative include teams of students from industrial design, mechanical engineering, business, and environmental studies who apply principles of sustainable design and development to create a new product (both design and business model) for a corporate client.
Critical pedagogy is a prime directive of our university’s general education requirements.
The Ecollaborative is our response to promote critical thinking capacity in our students.Thinking critically is more than being able to evaluate propositions; it also includes critical reflection, understanding one’s reflexive relationship with the world and culminates in critical action, the ability and willingness to take a reasoned position on an issue. The course embodies four attributes of a critical pedagogy: de-centered classroom, multiple disciplinary discourses, problematizing concepts and an action orientation. We believe this pedagogy will help students develop a complicated understanding of the principles and issues arising from any effort to create and produce sustainable and environmentally responsible products.
Innovation and invention is always a primary goal of design education. We believe this learning experience will demonstrate the principles and practices of sustainability can act as an engine to drive innovation. It is our goal to create an interdisciplinary learning community that will serve as a model for all participants to emulate in creating a community of practice centered on sustainable product design and development.
In the sections to follow, we provide a brief primer on critical pedagogy and how it relates to teaching sustainability. We describe our proposed course experience and discuss predicted outcomes.