In this paper we present the concept of adaptive expertise and relate this concept to the design curriculum offered by the Institute for Design Engineering and Applications (IDEA) at Northwestern University. The model of adaptive expertise suggests that instruction and assessment include a balance of “efficiency” and “innovation”. These two dimensions are first described from a theoretical perspective, then are discussed in more concrete terms in the context of the design experiences provided in IDEA. The model of adaptive expertise suggests that by providing learning experiences that balance these two dimensions we better prepare students to flexibly apply their knowledge in innovative ways. Since these aims are so closely aligned with the goals of design, we offer adaptive expertise as the target for engineering design education.

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