Product Design Student’s New Toy

We have just launched the next module to the student’s on the Product Design course here at The University of Salford. Myself and Alex Williams want to engage the students on a deeper level and have responded with this bold project. My intention is to use the module as a case study over coming weeks as part of my PGCAP.


More images available here:

The students will be conducting a thorough ergonomic and human factors analysis on the on this sleeper cab over the next week in their allocated groups. They will then construct a space frame of the cab in the studio that will be used to design and test elements of the cab.

First Few Days

User interaction analysis, ergonomic studies, human factors analysis have all taken place in the first few days. The students are now armed with an increasing depth of data to use as the module develops.  As I reflect on the first few days of the project I ask myself what type of learning is happening, surface and deep learning? At the moment it appears surface learning is taking place as recording of data is the main activity through taking photographs and recording distance measurements this is low down the pyramid on ‘Bloom’s Taxonomy’ and verbs like list, and name are apparent. Further up Blooms Taxonomy but still low down we are using verbs such as discuss (group work) and sketch. I do anticipate that after a few more days we will be exploring more verbs and progressively climbing the pyramid, but we will see!. I must say though that I prefer ‘Anderson and Krathwohl revision The Cognitive Domain‘ as this uses words of instant recognition to myself in my field of Design headings such as creating, evaluating, and analysing. The Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching at Iowa State University (2011) provides an excellent graphic representation on how these two taxonomies can be used together to generate lesson objectives.

Chrissi Nerantzi, our tutor has suggested that this type of learning could be object-based learning and has refered me to a book titled Inquiry-based learning using everday objects. ‘The objects are the central component of the lesson and the overall unit of study’. (Alvarado, 2003). As I read further the learning theory appears to be focused on a group of students analysing an object such as ocean organisms and asking questions and answering them to slowly reveal key information such as where in the ocean does the organism live?, what does it eat?, why does it have a thick shell? etc. It is clear that this theory encourages the students to go deeper into the object than they would in general day to day activities, I find this is a very important skill to have in my subject Design and the teaching team are continually encouraging depth to the students work. The object acts as the catalyst for learning. The Truck in our module does have similarities to the ocean organism scenario, as discussed above the students first task is to research and question the existing object asking questions such as, Is this handle comfortable to use? How do I gain access to the engine? etc these questions are answered by the actvity of doing by getting into the truck and experiencing the product as an experience. So both examples use questioning, inquiry and investigation, so both are object based learning, the Design students are learning how to investigate how a product is used and interacted with by asking questions, revealing answers which then informs the rest of their module whilst the Biology students do the same. There are though a number of diffences but this is more due to the differing subject styles and demands rather than one not being object based, the differences i have observed are:

1. When we ask where do the students go next with this new found information? The Design students use this information as a creative catalyst to produce new possibilities whilst the Biology students use the information to inform how to reveal what other organisms do.

2. It appears that the Biology learning scenario is one of many similar investigations conducted in the module whilst the Design learning scenario is a one off preparation to act as a basis for the module.

3. The Biology scenario appears to demand that the students operate at a deeper level sooner in the activity whilst in the design scenario the depth of learning comes later.

I have though conducted a series of sessions where the task came very close to the description of the Biology scenario. In this 2 week task each group of students had a product to study in depth asking questions about the products visual language, Why is the body of the product made of metal? Why is there a plastic bird on the spout? Why is the product shaped the way it is? etc. Due to reflection I would say that it was one of my most memorable series of lessons but I have not done it for a few years now! One of the product’s studied is below, may I ask you to observe the product and ask yourself the question why is the bird used and positioned on the kettle?


Alvarado. A.E. (2003), Inquiry-based learning using everday objects . Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press


About despard

Educator in Design.
This entry was posted in A1 Design and plan learning activities, A2 Teach and/or support learning, A4 Develop effective learning environments/support students, K1 The subject material, K2 Appropriate methods for teaching in subject area, K3 How students learn in subject area, K4 The use of learning technologies, V1 Respect learners and communities, V2 Promote participation, V3 Evidence-based approaches and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Product Design Student’s New Toy

  1. Absolutely brilliant! Why have you chosen to do this? What teaching techniques / activities will you use? I think they’ll certainly remember this one, Craig. That’s a good anchor for them to pin some knowledge onto. I look forward to your case study, sir 🙂

    • pgcapsalford says:

      Good question Rebecca. Craig, could you share the rationale with us? Why did you get the truck and what are you trying to achieve?


  2. pgcapsalford says:

    Wow, that is impressive Craig. Looking forward to finding out more about your project.


  3. Hi Craig,

    Good to see you are capturing already some of your thoughts around your new project. I can sense the excitement you feel which is great. I am wondering how your students re-acted and how they have started engaging. You mention that their learning might be surface learning at the moment. How can you help them deepen this in a meaningful way? You refer to Bloom’s Taxonomy and the revised version and seem to use it as a scaffold to bring more depth in their learning. Is this correct? What activities have you planned to achieve this and what are your overall intended learning outcomes? What would you like your students to achieve and learn? This might be something to focus on and then design activities that would enable your students to meet these. I hope this helps.

    Remember to be analytical and when you use concepts or theories be clear why you are bringing them in. Adding specific examples will demonstrate your understanding. Also you might find it useful to explore the literature around object-based learning. See for example but UCL also has some additional resources. Is object-based learning widely used in your discipline? What does the research show?

    I am looking forward to seeing this project develop and grow. Well done so far!

    Let me know if you wish to discuss any of the above, ok?


  4. pgcapsalford says:

    My reply to your question at the end about the bird: Well the bird will whistle when the water is boiled and it might even fly away if pressure builds up? ;o)

    Are you going to tell us?

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