Rethinking How Students Prepare for Careers in Innovation: A Case Study of Extracurricular Design-Based Learning

Elizabeth M. Gerber
Department of Mechanical Engineering
Northwestern University1 Evanston, IL 60208

Rebecca L. D. Komarek
School of Continuing Studies
Northwestern University Evanston, IL 60201

Jeanne M. Olson
Department of Learning and Organizational Change
Northwestern University Evanston, IL 60208

Innovation is critical to our economic and social prosperity. Government and industry depend on educational institutions to play a pivotal role in preparing the future workforce with the necessary skills and knowledge for careers in innovation. Yet, few students are prepared for such careers upon graduation and or be motivated to pursue innovation work without the structural supports of the academic environment if they do not believe in their ability to do so. This paper presents a new student-directed approach to engineering education called Extracurricular Design-Based Learning (EDBL) that aims to foster innovation design self-efficacy. The approach focuses on peer mentored human-centered design and innovation for social and local impact in extracurricular settings. Using both quantitative and quantitative longitudinal data from daily diaries, interviews, and observations, we examine how the learning environment fosters innovation design self-efficacy development. EDBL is illustrated through Design for America (DFA), a student-centered extracurricular development program. Design principles for implementing EDBL are discussed.


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