University of Tasmania

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Shaping ships for people : human centred design knowledge into maritime education

posted on 2023-05-27, 20:39 authored by Hettiarachchige Abeysiriwardhane
The ship design process focuses primarily on the technical aspects of engineering specifications and regulatory requirements derived from classification societies and flag states. There is often little or no attention paid by designers to the operational demands of onboard crew and the detailed design characteristics of the work environment of a ship. As a result, inadequate Human Factor (HF) consideration in ship design is a common contributory cause to maritime accidents. In fact, there is an increasing awareness in the marine industry that HF needs to be considered in ship design through a Human Centred Design (HCD) approach. Current maritime education however is heavily biased towards the technical aspects of design, limiting the education of students in HF, HCD and onboard operational issues. This has made it difficult to convey the significance of HCD and a usability mindset to designers. An early intervention in the maritime design education is thus essential. This research study constructed a pedagogical framework for integrating HCD knowledge into maritime education through undergraduate design projects. Within this framework, Peer-Led Team Learning (PLTL) pedagogy was linked to design project unit driven by Problem-Based Learning (PBL) pedagogy in conjunction with Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) theory and the scaffolding concept. HCD knowledge was then disseminated through this framework over two consecutive years, and then evaluated for effectiveness, as well as validated through an Action Research methodology. Maritime design undergraduates undertaking yearlong PBL-based design projects at the Australian Maritime College participated in this study. The findings present the effectiveness of this teaching framework for imparting non-technical HCD knowledge to technically-oriented maritime design project unit. The total effort made a noteworthy contribution to improving the HCD understanding of 56 of the undergraduates out of 69 to a satisfactory level, from an original point of a lack of understanding. In addition, as a result of adopting a peer-leader approach, this study created a cohort of unique HCD champions who are now trained to carry forward their knowledge into future design teams, thus guiding them to shape ships for people. Furthermore, the findings show the benefit of using multiple approaches, such as conducting HFrelated onboard activities, organising guest lectures, conducting discussions, and using virtual tours of ships, pictures, videos and real-world examples of HF, in order to meaningfully impart HCD knowledge. Such approaches incentivised the engineering students, as they can be categorised as 'demanding' in terms of learning preferences and their learning styles are diverse; visual, sensing, inductive, active, and global. This shows that in order to effectively transfer HCD knowledge into engineering education, these learning preferences should become partner to the traditional linguistic dimension of teaching, process which includes verbal, symbolic, and numerical representations. Future research may advance this pedagogical framework and the HCD knowledge dissemination activities by way of implementation in other maritime institutes who deliver PBL-based maritime design projects. However, in order to meaningfully implement this 'bottom-up' initiative, the acknowledgement of maritime institutions towards the significance of HCD knowledge for their undergraduates is pivotal.


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