Aiding the Design Museum of London in its efforts to motivate student engagement in STEAM fields through digital design workshops


Sponsor: The Design Museum
Sponsor Liaison: David Houston
Student Team: Catherine Blejwas, Nicholas Giaquinto, Elie Hess, Jialin Song
Abstract: The United Kingdom has increasingly marginalized the design and technology curriculum, leading to a dramatic decrease in the number of engineers and designers entering the workforce. Our project aided the Design Museum of London in its efforts to motivate student engagement in design and technology through digital design workshops. We researched educational practices, interviewed education professionals, and surveyed students to evaluate the effectiveness of existing workshops. To motivate students to engage more with design and technology, we recommended lesson plan updates, created pre- and post-visit modules for each workshop, and developed a proposal for a new workshop focused on how designers use computer code to create user interactions.

STEAM Workshop Development_IQP Final Paper

STEAM Workshop Development_IQP Final Presentation

Executive Summary

STEAM education is an interdisciplinary teaching method that combines science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics and encourages students to interact with traditional STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education in an innovative way. Ideally, STEAM increases students’ creativity and innovation, and stimulates student interest in STEM by “utilizing the arts as a fulcrum through which sciences, mathematics, structural and technological design learning can be explored and experienced” (Harris & Bruin, 2018).

The United Kingdom implemented STEAM education through two subjects: art and design, and design and technology. However, due to a lack of government funding, schools in the UK have increasingly marginalized design curricula, and in some cases cut it entirely (D&T Association, 2016; see also Adams, 2019). The lack of stimulating design curricula within classrooms contributed to a 10% decrease in interest in design among students years seven to nine from 2008 to 2010 (Hutchinson & Bentley, 2011).

The Design Museum of London is a privately owned museum working to “build public awareness of design by connecting design with people’s lives and passions” (The Design Museum of London, 2016). The Design Museum offers three digital design workshops – graphic design, 3D printing, and app design – to motivate student engagement in STEAM fields. However, the Design Museum believes its current workshops could be more effective in a variety of ways. Thus, the Design Museum commissioned this IQP to identify specific areas to improve and suggest ways to do so.

The goal of this project was to aid the Design Museum in its efforts to motivate student engagement in STEAM fields by updating current digital design workshops and developing a new workshop. The team completed this goal by:

1. Developing an evaluation framework for workshop effectiveness according to stakeholder views.

2. Assessing the effectiveness of the Design Museum’s current workshops: app design, graphic design, and 3D printing.

3. Updating lesson plans and creating pre- and post-visit modules for the Design Museum’s current workshops.

4. Creating a proposal for a new workshop according to the evaluation framework.

5. Piloting and assessing the new workshop based on the evaluation framework.

To accomplish our first objective, the team utilized the Expero Framework to assess the effectiveness of the Design Museum’s current digital design workshops. The Expero Framework is made up of two sections: desired outcomes and existing outcomes. The desired outcomes, informed by data collected from the stakeholders (students, teachers, and Design Museum educators and members of the learning team), are what stakeholders want the program to accomplish. The existing outcomes, informed by observational research, are what the lessons currently accomplish, and may or may not align with the desired outcomes. The team defined five desired outcomes through interviews and surveys with stakeholders:

1. Workshops should focus on design and the design process rather than technical skills.

2. Workshops should combine technical skills with students’ passions.

3. Workshops should provide a real-world, practical application of what students learn in school.

4. Workshops should inspire students to ask questions and continue learning after the workshop ends.

5. Workshops should be unique to the Design Museum.

We identified existing outcomes for the three existing workshops based on observational research, surveys, and by participating in the workshops when we could not observe students. Utilizing the adapted Expero Framework, we then determined which existing outcomes did not match the desired outcomes so that we could provide recommendations to increase the alignment between the two.

App Design Workshop Recommendations

The app design workshop aligns with the first four desired outcomes; to align with the fifth, we recommend that instructors show students an example of a digital user interface related to the museum, and discuss its design choices with the students to tie the workshop back to the museum. This user interface might be the Design Museum’s website, the city mapper app on display in one of the museum’s permanent exhibits, etc.

Graphic Design Workshop Recommendations

The graphic design workshop aligns with the first three desired outcomes, but not the final two. Therefore, we recommend that the Design Museum include physical posters from its collection with which students can interact. Additionally, the post-visit module should contain additional posters for students to analyze, along with some thought-provoking questions that will prompt students to consider the design choices made when creating the included posters.

3D Printing Workshop Recommendations

The 3D printing workshop aligns with the first, third, and fifth desired outcomes, but not with the second. We were unable to gather enough data to determine if the workshop met the fourth objective. The team recommends that the Design Museum shorten the technical background discussed in the lecture section. Additionally, we recommend including more objects from the 3D printing wall in Designer, Maker, User (one of the museum’s permanent exhibits), and highlighting different design-related applications of 3D printing and its materials during the lecture section.

Proposed Coding Workshop

Responding to the Design Museum’s request and student demand, we created a proposal for a brand-new workshop that focuses on how designers use computer code to create user interactions within the digital world by integrating sensors and design. We created this workshop based on the desired outcomes the team determined. We designed the workshop for students ages 7 to 18 to explore the definition of design in this context, utilizing sample objects from the Design Museum’s collection.

Pre- and Post-Visit Modules

Based on the third objective, the team created pre- and post-visit modules for the three current workshops. The pre-visit modules provide introductions to the workshops with questions to motivate students’ thinking in design, while post-visit modules provide tutorials to strengthen and enhance students’ skills and knowledge gained during each workshop.

All of our changes, if implemented, may improve the effectiveness of the Design Museum’s digital design curriculum. A stronger digital design curriculum at the Design Museum may inspire students visiting the museum to learn more about the importance of design in their own lives and how they can use design and technology as a tool to pursue their passions. Teaching students about the relevance of design may result in an increased number of students feeling engaged by their school curriculum, which might cause an increase in classroom participation, student learning, and, eventually, the number of well-rounded designers and engineers entering the UK workforce.