Educational Technology Research and Development

, Volume 59, Issue 5, pp 687–710 | Cite as

Three dimensions of reflective thinking in solving design problems: a conceptual model

  • Yi-Chun HongEmail author
  • Ikseon Choi
Development Article


Design tasks are omnipresent in our everyday lives. Previous research shows that reflective thinking is one of the critical factors in solving design problems. Related research has attempted to capture designers’ reflective thinking process. Yet a close inspection of designers’ reflective thinking taking place during their design process demands further effort. To understand designer’s reflective practice and to find better ways to promote novices’ reflective thinking in solving real-world design problems, a comprehensive model was developed. This model identified three dimensions to guide the understanding of designers’ reflective thinking during a design process: (1) the timing of reflection, indicating the points in the process where reflective thinking occurs, (2) the objects of reflection, showing the different types of objects that designers may reflect upon, and (3) the levels of reflection, referring to the different levels of designers’ reflection. This model provides for meaningful aspects of reflective thinking to be situated in a design process, which can guide educators and instructional designers in developing appropriate learning environments for facilitating novice and practicing designers’ reflective thinking. Moreover, the model can serve as a stepping stone for further research.


Reflection Reflective thinking Design problems Problem solving Ill-defined problems Ill-structured problems Instructional design 



This manuscript constitutes part of a manuscript style (multiple related journal articles) dissertation the first author is submitting at the University of Georgia’s Learning, Design, and Technology Program. An earlier version of this manuscript was presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association in San Diego, CA (April, 2009).


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© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Department of Educational Psychology and Instructional TechnologyThe University of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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