An investigation of adaptive expertise and transfer of design process knowledge

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46 Scopus citations


Transfer of knowledge is a common and ongoing area of investigation in many education studies. The topic is of central importance to the education community because it enables educators to understand how knowledge learned in one context can apply, or transfer, to new contexts. This is particularly important in the context of technological innovation and design education. That is, design often requires the generation of solutions that do not already exist. Generating unique solutions requires the ability to recognize when previous knowledge or learning is appropriate, and then to accurately apply previous learning to novel situations. Furthermore, focusing on transfer of knowledge brings a learner-centered approach to education such that learning experiences are designed to reinforce and to build on students'prior knowledge. This paper presents results from a study that measured the type of design process knowledge that gets transferred into and out of design-focused courses. The study included approximately 100 students in three different courses: one freshman and two upper-level design courses. Results from this study shed light on the nature of students' design process knowledge, as novice (freshman) as well as more experienced (junior and senior) student designers. In addition, study results show significant increases in pre- and post-measures of design process knowledge as students advance in the curriculum. Finally, we describe our findings in the context of an emerging framework for instruction and assessment: adaptive expertise. The concept of adaptive expertise is relevant to design education since it presents a model that guides the educational experience to have a balance of gaining technical proficiency with opportunities for applying one's knowledge in innovative ways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)730-734
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Mechanical Design - Transactions of the ASME
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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