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HCDE Pedagogical Philosophy

Human Centered Design & Engineering (HCDE) faculty employ many pedagogical techniques yet all would agree with the following principles.

Learning Activities

Students generally learn more readily through active learning. Lectures should be combined with workshops, presentations, discussion, and other participatory learning approaches. Having students interact with other students and using think‐pair‐share activities are valuable active learning strategies.

Learning Environment

Successful instructors create an environment of respect and courtesy in which students feel safe to voice their views. Demeanor in class should be professional, recognizing that instructors are in a position of authority rather than on equal footing with students. Instructors must take care to treat all students equally.


Learning takes time. On a practical basis, the university provides a 3:1 guideline—courses are expected to require about three hours of activity (this includes lecture) for each course credit. Thus, an instructor is challenged with creating activities and requirements that lead to the most learning within the workload expectations. Under such constraints, less is often more. For example, a single reading discussed for twice as much time may result in deeper understanding and more connections than two readings engaged in a shallow manner.


Students need feedback in order to learn successfully. Graded assignments should occur fairly early in a course, and there should be more than one graded assignment in a course.


Students perform better when they understand instructor expectations. Learning objectives are a central source of these expectations and should influence all class decisions (e.g., readings, assignments, evaluations, grading rubrics), and they should be explicitly revisited often.

A Timeline

A student's past and future are important resources for learning in the present.

Students use their prior knowledge and experience to make sense of current learning situations, and they use knowledge gained in the present to revise their understanding of the past. Since a key goal of most learning situations is to provide students with knowledge to be used in the future, it can be helpful to have students purposefully think about connecting their learning to their future.

The UW Center for Teaching and Learning includes many helpful teaching resources.