Contemporary Issues in Design Education Friday, June 8th, 2018

Evidence-based Learning in Design Research

Lisa Mercer, Assistant Professor, University of Illinois

Providing students with an overview of research to show them how they could apply methods of research and use the evidence gained to inform their practice.

As instructors, we should use our research to help students learn the ways that research can inform their learning. This paper focuses on a workshop that I conducted at the University of Bern in response to an invitation from Minou Afzazi. The purpose of the workshop was to engage graduate students in the first week of their Masters in Design program based on my existing research on the social justice issue of human trafficking. This framework allowed me to create a space where I could discuss with the students the importance of incorporating different methods of research and applying the evidence in practice. After grouping the students in teams of three individuals, I then started the workshop by providing a contextual overview of my research on human trafficking. I asked the participants to focus on a question that I had identified as a limitation of my initial ethnographic study: How can we educate truck drivers about human trafficking? In the workshop, I included different methods of research: empathy mapping, coding existing interviews, location-based observations using pictures and maps, a period of ideation based on the new question, and using positive/negative matrices to delimit ideas and support a team discussion in focusing on one research idea. Based on this idea, I then asked the students to answer the following questions: What do we want to do? What do we want to achieve? Who does this idea benefit? Who in a community should be engaged to support the research? At the end of the workshop, the groups presented a concept poster that they could present to identified community members. Thus, their engagement with the community members would be based on the students’ understanding of what they wanted to accomplish, why they wanted to accomplish it, and whom they intended to benefit.