Efficacy of Teaching Design for Sustainability using Design Supports

Published: 2 July 2020| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/3pdy48dbn7.1
Sharmistha Banerjee


Education for Design for Sustainability (DfS) is a complex process involving the need to develop critical competencies through various pedagogical approaches. The focus of this paper is teaching DfS at Product-Service System (PSS) level with and without design supports. DfS at PSS level presents a wicked and complex design problem for students as they are challenged to deal with interrelated issues which require cross-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary knowledge and expertise. It has been observed that there is significant difference between student (novice) designers and expert designers in defining and structuring wicked design problems. The difference arises because of higher information need, assistance in problem structuring and presentation along with process selection. Students, therefore, need pedagogy that can aid them in perceiving relevance of various factors involved to be able to locate interconnections. The available design supports for DfS have been designed keeping in mind expert designers. The question therefore arises, do sustainability-oriented analysis and design supports shape up student designers' learning experience effectively or not and how. In this paper, we use the context of designing agricultural machinery with a sustainable PSS approach, a wicked and complex design problem. We investigate a group of fifteen undergraduate and postgraduate Design students' mental model to approaching DfS of agricultural machinery and its associated service ecosystem. The first scenario of the investigations is when they are just informed about the concepts of sustainability, sustainable development, and sustainability in the context of agriculture but given no design support in the form of a framework or guideline for performing the act of design. Next, we provide the students with an indicator-based DfS assessment and design guideline and observe the efficacy and efficiency of the same group of students in analyzing and ideating for the same agricultural machinery and its associated service ecosystem. We then examined the effectiveness and efficiency of a design support based DfS act by examining if the strength of the analysis and design has improved, the number of factual errors or misunderstandings reduced, and the quality of learning improved. The investigation concludes that using frameworks and guideline to aid DfS for students is very useful in structuring students' analytical and design skills, especially in transdisciplinary DfS projects. It also can reduce the number of factual errors and misunderstandings the students have during the analysis and design process. The students reported feeling more confident during their learning journey when provided with a set of design guideline.



Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati


Sustainability, Agricultural Machinery, Agroecosystem Sustainability, Design for Sustainability