Peter Scupelli will present a paper titled “Teaching Designers to Anticipate Future Challenges with Causal Layered Analysis” at the 2021 IASDR conference held in Hong Kong December 5-9 at TThe Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
Low-probability disasters like global pandemics, nuclear war, earthquakes, solar flares and so forth require anticipatory imagination and strategic preparations. The COVID-19 global pandemic amply illustrated how being unprepared results in tragic outcomes for human lives, families, organizations, and economies. Preparing for different kinds of possible futures requires new thinking, imagining, and acting. Globally, design educators are challenged to prepare the next generation of designers for a rapidly changing world. How might designers learn to meaningfully engage with the challenges of our time (e.g., climate emergency, sustainable development) and emerging opportunities (e.g., AI, fourth industrial revolution, and so forth)? In this paper, I describe two futures thinking methods taught in a design centred futures course taught in the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (USA). First, an Alternative Futures exercise with a 2×2 matrix that yields four possible futures. Second, students explored one possible future in-depth with Causal Layered Analysis (CLA). The design futures course was taught with the flipped-classroom active learning pedagogy through five activities: online learning, mini-lecture, demonstration, small group in-class workshop activities, and weekly reflection/discussion. I report on text analysis of student weekly reflections parsed with five codes related to CLA (i.e., personal insights, thinking structures, design insights, CLA details, other). Step-by-step scaffolding and multiple integrated learning activities helped students to engage with futures studies methods. CLA provided students with new thinking structures for sensemaking, new insights into futures thinking, and design methods and process insights on how to design for future challenges.