Requirements & Grading

This is a seminar class that involves substantial reading (facilitated by the online platform Perusal) and both online and in class discussions. Topical lectures from instructors and several guest lecturers will scaffold course topics. Over the course of the semester, students will also complete 5 assignments that together, introduce the emerging Transition Design approach.

Your grade is based upon the following:

  • Participation in class discussions & exercises: 25%
  • Participation in the online Perusall discussion group: 25%
  • Assignments in Miro: 50%  (Wicked Problem Mapping: 10%; Stakeholder Mapping: 10%; Mapping the Evolution of a Wicked Problem: 10%; Designing for Transitions (Visioning/Assessing the Present/Mile-stoning): 10%;  Designing Interventions: 10% ) Details about the 5 assignments can be found within the Assignments section of this website.


How we have made accommodations for online course delivery in 2021:

In-class time to work on assignments: Because we realize it is challenging to undertake a course completely online, we have built four in-class work sessions into the course that will enable teams to work on their assignments and get feedback from the instructors. These sessions will be conducted like an ordinary class session (attendance will be taken and students are asked to work for the entire hour and 20 minutes of the class), but they will meet with their teams in Zoom breakout rooms and work on their assignments in Miro. The instructors and TA will circulate throughout the class session to provide feedback and answer questions.

Ability to improve grades on each assignment: each of the 5 assignments must be submitted on the due date, and a grade will be given. However, each team will have the option to work on an assignment further if they would like to submit it a second time for consideration for a higher grade. Teams have until the end of the semester to work further an any given assignment with all assignments due Sunday, May 9th.

Participation: In-Class and Online Discussions

Participation in this class will be evaluated on the basis of both in-class discussions and the group discussions using the Perusal platform. In class, evaluation will be based upon students’ overall presence/posture, engagement in discussions & discussion capture in Miro boards, assessment of how prepared they are, understanding of the material and its connection to Transition Design, and the ability to build upon the ideas introduced. Small group discussion of assigned texts in Perusal will involve a discussion string between 3-4 people that will be reviewed and evaluated by the instructors and TA on the basis of both quantity and quality of interactions. Successful participation in both in-class and online discussions involves taking up postures of speculation vs. certainty, learning to ‘dance’ with and build upon others’ ideas (as opposing to entering a debate or proving the other person wrong), being willing to change one’s mind, listening as opposed to ‘waiting to talk’, being generous and encouraging everyone to speak up and participate, not dominating the conversation, speaking clearly and loudly enough for all to hear. 

Guidelines for Managing Zoom

Although most of us have now experience one semester of online teaching and learning, we understand that this medium continues to be challenging for a number of reasons. Because we try to cultivate a sense of community and mindful interaction among everyone in the seminar we ask that students adhere to the following:

  1. Please show for class on time. We suggest joining to Zoom call a few minutes early to ensure your technology is working well.
  2. We ask that all students attend class with your video on and you microphones muted unless we are in class or small group discussions. It is very important that we all see each other and be fully present for this class. If a students is experiencing bandwidth issues, we ask that you set up a meeting to discuss this with the instructors and we will do what we can to ensure that you are able to fully participate. This is extremely important.
  3. To begin the semester, we ask that you use the “raised hand” icon in Zoom to signal that you want to talk during large, class discussions.

The Readings

The seminar requires you to do a significant amount of outside reading and engage in an online group discussion of the assigned texts. You will be evaluated on both the quantify and quality of your participation in this online discussion forum. You will note that we have divided the readings into two categories: Assigned Readings (required) and Supplementary Readings. There will be several assigned texts for each class, but each student will only be required to read one or two texts (in some cases this might be 2 short texts instead of one long one). In class discussion groups will be the same as Perusall discussion groups. The group will continue the discussion in class and be asked to capture highlights, key insights and connections/relevance to Transition Design in the Miro discussion board.

How to Read Multiple Texts for a Seminar

It is important that students develop the ability to read multiple texts quickly and thoroughly. A good approach is to quickly skim a of reading, then go back and read it in depth. The Perusall platform will enable you to mark up text and create a discussion string with others in your group. Texts are also downloadable from the seminar website, so you might consider printing them out and marking them up if you prefer to read them in a different setting.  Highlighting areas/points for discussion in class, making notes, and noting questions are all ways to ensure that you understand the material and come to class prepared. The readings we have selected combine recent texts from journals, blogs and publications with classic (and often out of print) texts from science, anthropology, sociology and other areas. This is a helpful article that discusses reading for graduate school.

Why We Assign Diverse Readings

The wide variety of texts serves two purposes: 1) it acquaints you with key historical concepts/ideas and thought leaders from varied fields and disciplines and 2) it provides you with experience in relating ideas from other fields and disciplines to design theory and practice. Designers are continually asked to step into new territories, and the ability to synthesize new concepts and ideas in order to inform action is a key skill. In this seminar you are helping to constitute a new area of design focus: Transition Design. However the skill of synthesizing ideas and concepts from disparate discipline in order to inform practice and research is highly valued in commercial and non-profit organizations.

Discussing the Texts

We aim to build a culture of trust in this course in which people respect each other’s views but also feel able to engage in lively debate. Come to the discussions prepared to present your point of view, but always be willing to change your mind. Be vocal, but generous. Be aware of whether you are monopolizing the conversation and be willing to hand the discussion off to others and ask someone who hasn’t yet spoken, “what do you think?”. Build upon or challenge what others have said to keep interesting discussions going. Be aware of whether you’re truly listening or simply ‘waiting to talk.’ A good discussion is a dance; you’re building on what others have said (not changing the subject without acknowledging you are and saying why). You’re not being asked to deliver a lecture or monologue within class discussions. If you find yourself getting perturbed or upset about what someone is saying, consider the possibility that it might be because your deeply held beliefs and assumptions are being challenged—that isn’t necessarily a bad thing and is one of the objectives of a university education. Practice and hone your powers of articulation. Be brave. Be curious. Be kind. Discussion is an art and ability that designers need to cultivate.


On time, consistent attendance and in-class/online participation is important in this course. We understand that we are all operating in unusual circumstances that continue to present challenges for both students and instructors.

The attendance policy is as follows: Three absences may cause your final grade to drop a letter. Six absences may earn you a failing grade for the course. Please schedule doctor’s appointments, interviews, etc. for times other than class sessions. Interviews and conferences are not considered valid reasons for missing the class and will be counted as absences. In the event that you encounter a health or life issue that requires you to miss class please notify us (and your team members if you have commitments on your projects) as soon as possible to provide an idea of the severity of your illness/issue and the length of time needed for recovery so that we, and other university resources if needed, can support your successful learning and completion of work.

  • 27 sessions over 14 weeks: 6 absences may lead to course failure
  • (20% of classes missed; if 5 absences the percentage is 16.666)
  • 15 sessions over 15 weeks: 3 absences may lead to course failure
  • (20% of classes missed)
  • 14 sessions over 7 weeks: 3 absences may lead to course failure
  • (21% of classes missed)
  • 7 sessions over 7 weeks: 2 absences may lead to course failure
  • (29% of classes missed)

Note again that attending conferences and job interviews do not count as excused absences.

Academic Integrity & Plagiarism

Please review Carnegie Mellon University’s academic integrity policy. Student teams will create a Medium site where they will post and document the 5 assignments. Since you will be writing and publishing your work to a public site, please be aware of the guidelines that pertain to plagiarism:

Accommodations for Students with Disabilities

If you have a disability and have an accommodations letter from the Disability Resources office, we encourage you to discuss your accommodations and needs with us as early in the semester as possible. We will work with you to ensure that accommodations are provided as appropriate. If you suspect that you may have a disability and would benefit from accommodations but are not yet registered with the Office of Disability Resources, we encourage you to contact them at