Teaching design theory: Scaffolding for experiential learning
Paper in proceeding, 2013

A future in ever changing professions requires design students to become competent in engaging with different types of knowledge. This article argues that teaching students the ability to reflect on their own approaches opens up for combining design theory and practice for the greater benefit of both. Yet, there are challenges in promoting such a ‘mixed approach’ in design education. In a prior paper, the authors took Kolb’s experiential learning model as a starting point for a post hoc comparison and evaluation of teaching design theory. The present paper describes the proactive application of this model in redesigning a course, given at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology spring term 2013. The course provides Concrete Experience through in situ-observations interviews, etc. Students are then requested to transform these into the generic requirements of a design brief (Reflective Observation), further interpret the brief in the light of theories (Abstract Conceptualisation), and finally convert findings into new design concepts (Active Experimentation). The paper discusses how learning models can be used proactively in design education, through three perspectives on learning: as Didactic staging-, Process driven-, and Reflexive independence.

Learning styles

Design theory

Double loop learning





Experiential learning


Viktor Hjort af Ornäs

Chalmers, Product and Production Development, Design and Human Factors

Martina Keitsch

EPDE2013 15th Itl. Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education, Dublin, Ireland. September 5-6

978-190467042-1 (ISBN)

Driving Forces

Sustainable development

Subject Categories

Other Engineering and Technologies


Learning and teaching

Pedagogical work



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