Academic journal article Visible Language

A Study on the Revelations of Design Students' Thinking Styles in Reflective Journals

Academic journal article Visible Language

A Study on the Revelations of Design Students' Thinking Styles in Reflective Journals

Article excerpt


Thinking, considered as part of the core skill set of a designer, is equally significant in learning and design processes. An awareness and understanding of a personal thinking style is therefore important for both teaching and learning. Using well-established theories of thinking and using an in depth multiple case method, the author explores the possibilities of exposing students' thinking styles through the medium of reflective journals. Eight journals are carefully examined in terms of where student attention is located, how they communicate and how they are thinking. A further aim is to provide a guideline that can aid teachers to analyze the journals as feedback for the ease or difficulty associated with their teaching strategy. While the study is framed within a university design program, its findings may be of more general application.

"Design is not one way of thinking, but several. In particular it is a mix of rational, analytical thinking and creativity" (Lawson and Dorst 2009, 28). In a psychological sense, the complex mental processes of design relates to cognition, intelligences and thinking styles thereby having a direct bearing on the process of learning and acquiring knowledge in the realm of education. While the aim of design education has always been the attainment of higher order thinking skills, evidence of such attainment might not be easily apparent. Reflective journals, sometimes promoted by educators as a learning tool, might be a source that could reveal the student's thinking. This research seeks to not only reveal students' thinking styles, but to study the reflective process in depth and the importance of reflective thinking in fostering creativity.


Dewey, one of the earliest proponents and most influential psycholo- gists in the area of reflective thinking defines reflective thought as "Active, persistent, and careful consideration of any belief or supposed form of knowledge in the light of the grounds that support it and the further conclusions to which it tends" (Dewey, 1960, 9).

Researchers like Boud, Keogh and Walker (1985) and Kolb (1984) have emphasized the role of reflective thinking in experience-based learning. Schön (1983) in his work on reflective thinking in professional practice mentions that the construction of practitioners' knowledge is by means of "reflection-in-action" which occurs during a learning activity and "reflection-on-action" which occurs after the activity is completed. Further, reflective thinking is often used in conjunction with metacognition. Self-reflection, according to Zimmerman (2000) forms an integral part of self-regulation that is the evaluation and monitoring of one's cognition in the learning process.


The importance of reflective thinking in design education and design practice has increased as the pace and demands of study and workplace often compromise the value of design (Meredith Davis, 2007). Its importance in education has been long realized by Dewey (1960) who feels that...

reflection provides opportunities for students to discern their personal values and beliefs, find meaning in education and learn their strengths and weaknesses,

Schön (1983) argues that the limitations of "Technical Rationality" in dealing with "divergent" situations in practice can be dealt with by the artistry of reflective thinking.

King and Kitchener's (1994) Reflective Judgment Model Is especially useful in improving students' cognitive abilities while dealing with ill-structured or uncertain design problems and is useful in studying the learning process of students as well. Similarly, according to Lawson and Dorst (2009), reflective thinking develops students' prob- lem-solving capabilities in a design situation thus developing design thinking capabilities (Cross, 2001 ). Reflective thinking generates new forms of thinking, helps to connect the different forms of thinking and promotes the Idea of a life-long learning process (Kolb, 1984). …

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