The Design Approach and Activity Led Learning

Michael Tovey, J. Davies

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)
106 Downloads (Pure)


Two approaches to design and engineering pedagogy have been developed at Coventry University. They are the Design Approach which is being applied in the Industrial Design Department and Activity-Led Learning which is being applied across Faculty of Engineering and Computing. They have much in common, including the emphasis on communities of learners and the preparation for entry to professional practice through contact with real life projects. The Design Approach involves an emphasis on project based activity. At the core of being able to engage in designerly thinking, balancing creative and evaluative thinking is a dual processing match of linear and simultaneous processes as a conversation between these two modes of thought. Design students achieving this match must confront and travel through a key threshold which we have labelled the ‘toleration of design uncertainty’. Activity-Led Learning is an approach to education based on providing stimulating activity that engages and enthuses students and creates challenge, relevance, integration, professional awareness and variety. An activity is a project, problem, scenario, case-study, enquiry, research question (or similar) in a class-room, in a laboratory, at work, or in any other educational context. Activities will often cross subject boundaries, as activities within professional practice do. Many involve design project work, particularly those for the Faculty’s Architecture course. In this area there are significant similarities to the Design Approach. The purpose of this paper is be to compare and contrast these approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDS 69: Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education
Place of PublicationUniversity of Strathclyde, Scotland
PublisherDesign Society
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011

Bibliographical note

This paper was presented at the London E&PDE2011 (13th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education) 'Design education for creativity and business innovation' conference at City University London, 8-9 September 2011. Details of the proceedings and papers can be found on the Design Society website at Author's note: Significance: -
The Centre of Excellence for Product and Automotive Design (CEPAD) was one of Coventry University’s three HEFCE-funded centres of excellence for teaching and learning. It has implemented a five-year plan to reinforce existing teaching excellence within the Industrial Design Department of Coventry School of Art and Design (CSAD) and reflect upon its practices to inform future design education. The project pursued a number of themes such as the exploration of design education in the context of the design community of practice, the internationalisation of design education, threshold concepts in design education and the exploration of visual and spatial creativity through digital technologies
The Faculty of Engineering and Computing at Coventry University is large and multi-disciplinary. Encompassed within the Faculty are departments of Mathematics, Statistics and Engineering Science; Mechanical and Automotive Engineering; The Built Environment; Engineering and Knowledge Management; and Computing and the Digital Environment. The Faculty wishes to develop and enhance the student learning experience to promote student retention, engagement, and achievement. The ambition to improve the learner experience is underpinned by a learning and teaching vision to build a community of learners, through employer and profession focussed activity led education. This teaching and learning vision characterises the Activity-Led Learning experience the Faculty wants its students to have. It also recognises that the learning experience is supported in a number of different ways and through a number of different ‘agencies’ including registry, academic, professional and technical functions. The Faculty’s planned £50 million new building design is being informed by this vision and the need to further integrate service functions to support the student experience.
The publisher and copyright holder is the Design Society, UK


  • design pedagogy
  • thresholds
  • activity led learning
  • communities


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