Design Journals Worked for DaVinci

Project No.
PI Name
Linda Schmidt
University of Maryland

Abstract 1

Design Journals Worked for DaVinci

Presentation Type
Linda Schmidt, University of Maryland


Inventive geniuses of the past used journals more naturally than most students use paper today.
Research shows that journaling provides the most natural means to enhance ideation (the identifications of initial design concepts); yet, it is a largely bypassed resource for most engineering students. Providing a way to introduce journaling back into the design classroom is a way to reintroduce a proven tool for creativity enhancement to engineering students and their instructors.

Documenting and interpreting design process records are valuable to companies. In industry, concurrent design records are a history of design development that can be studied to learn critical steps used during a particular design task, high impact decision points made during the process, mistakes made, and a host of other information. Student journals can offer the same insights to students as they develop their engineering design skills.


This work seeks to reveal journaling as an asset for ideation learning assessment and tracking team members' engagement in the ideation process when working as a group. The project explores the use of individual design journals to assess student ideation performance and learning in two scenarios: (1) undergraduate and graduate students working alone on design tasks, and (2) students in the capstone design course working as a member of a 5- or 6-person team. The team design scenario allows evaluation of journal coding results as a means to assess the level of student engagement in their team project.


This project will add a journaling requirement to two ideation method design courses developed and taught by the PI. Students will use their journals as they apply ideation methods to generate concepts. Scores from regular course homework and exams will comprise a traditional assessment of ideation learning. Journal analysis and ideation metrics will be tested as predictors of ideation method learning. Focusing on group assessment, student volunteers from the capstone design course will journal through their projects. Journals will be coded with concept referencing metrics measuring the propagation of ideas from one team member to another, and the frequency with which each team member records information on concepts. The concept referencing metric will be tested as a predictor of team member involvement in the group project as measured by peer determination of individual contributions.


Design journaling practices must be developed that provide students with effective learning experiences and journaling assessment practices must be developed so that design instructors can provide timely and effective design feedback and input, especially during the ideation process. Establishing the value of journaling as an assessment tool for ideation methods would provide the basis for a protocol that engages student and instructor in examination and reflection on design thinking in as close to real time as it can happen.

Broader Impacts

Journaling can improve design outcomes and learning because it promotes cognitive processes specific to creative thinking. Completion of this work prepares a foundation on journaling for assessment that will be the springboard to deeper investigation on how to improve engineering design skills in tomorrow's professionals.

Unexpected Challenges

Coding journal data is difficult as it is handwritten.


No publications include work from this proposal.