A Qualitative Investigation of Students’ Design Experiences in a Work-Integrated Learning Setting

DS 122: Proceedings of the Design Society: 24th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED23)

Year: 2023
Editor: Kevin Otto, Boris Eisenbart, Claudia Eckert, Benoit Eynard, Dieter Krause, Josef Oehmen, Nad
Author: Nickel, Jordan (1); Rennick, Chris (1); Litster, Gregory (2); Hulls, Carol C.W. (1); Hurst, Ada (1)
Series: ICED
Institution: 1: University of Waterloo; 2: University of Toronto
Section: Design Methods
Page(s): 0375-0384
DOI number: https://doi.org/10.1017/pds.2023.38


Work-integrated learning (WIL) – a pedagogy that integrates academic studies with workplace experiences – presents an excellent opportunity for students to “deliberately practice” their design skills. To date there has been little investigation into the effect(s) of WIL experiences on developing novice designers’ design skills.

We performed a series of longitudinal interview case studies following three engineering students through the course of a 4-month work term. Interviews were semi-structured to gather rich contextual descriptions of participant experiences designing in WIL settings. Transcripts were analysed using an iterative thematic analysis approach.

Results indicate specific areas where WIL helps develop novice designers’ engineering design skills and mindsets beyond their early experiences in the engineering classroom. These include their experiences interacting with clients/users, the importance of project transition considerations, resource coordination, teamwork/collaboration, and the design process. We discuss how the structure of design tasks and their environment differ from the classroom experience, highlighting how WIL can supplement traditional design education.

Keywords: Work-integrated learning, Design education, Design practice, Education

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