Developing human-centered design practices and perspectives through service-learning Book Chapter

Cardella, ME, Zoltowski, CB, Oakes, WC. (2008). Developing human-centered design practices and perspectives through service-learning . 11-29.

cited authors

  • Cardella, ME; Zoltowski, CB; Oakes, WC


  • The engineers of the next century must supplement a strong technical education with awareness of cultural, ethical, and social contexts in which they will practice engineering. The skills and practices associated with HCD are not only integral skills and practices for students to learn in order to be innovative designers, but also skills and practices that will equip them to be able to engage in socially just engineering practices. HCD places engineering designers in a close connection with users. By taking into account diverse stakeholders' needs, wants, and lived experiences throughout their design processes, using a variety of approaches for conducting needs analyses, eliciting feedback from stakeholders, and basing design decisions on stakeholders' perspectives, students can become designers who are sensitive to diverse stakeholders' needs as well as sensitive to the potential repercussions of design decisions. The model presented in this chapter shows the progression of HCD with the highest level being empathic design, where designers are keenly aware of the users as well as the larger social contexts. Service-learning is a pedagogy that situates academic learning within service to underserved people. The integration of service with classroom learning creates learning opportunities to explore larger social issues within the classroom. In engineering, service-learning has been used in a variety of classes and contexts. We believe that service-learning is a powerful pedagogical tool for helping students develop the HCD skills and practices that will enable them to become socially just practitioners. The EPICS Program is a model for integrating service-learning with HCD. Research and experience has shown that this combination can be powerful in student development. One of the tenets of service-learning that EPICS employs is reciprocity. The approach is to create mutually beneficial relationships with community partners and the university program. A key aspect is that EPICS creates long-term partnerships that continue to work with community partners as they learn from and support each other. While the opportunities are enormous for student development, simply having students participate is not enough. The research in HCD and service-learning shows that learning experiences need to be processed with the students through metacognitive activities, including reflection. The research also suggests that there may be critical experiences that students must have to develop awareness of the larger social issues. Although the service-learning context can provide enormous opportunities for service to humanity, especially the underserved, there are times when these experiences benefit the students more than the people they are intending to serve. However, the EPICS model of service-learning, in which there are long-term partnerships, values of reciprocity, and the use of an HCD process, is critical in developing a more socially just approach to engineering. © 2012 by Purdue University. All rights reserved.

publication date

  • December 1, 2008

start page

  • 11

end page

  • 29