Future School Concepts and Design Research

I was just reading the InnoSchool project’s final report.

The goal of InnoSchool is to develop the Future School Concept: a set of research-based good practices, processes, models and designs, and recommendations for their successful combinations in the Future School.

It is a nice project with many interesting results. The report is worth of reading, and even just to browse if you do not read Finnish. The pictures from different physical learning places and spaces are a great resource for anyone interested in learning environment design.

The final report, however, has a section describing “design research” (design-tutkimus). When reading the section, I noticed that the research described in it is not “design research” but “design-based research”. At least in the discussions in Finland — regardless of the design boom over here (design thinking, service design etc.) — there seems to be a lot of misconceptions related to the design -terminology.

Design-based research (as described in the field of Learning Science, for instance Barab & Squire, 2004; The Design-Based Research Collective) is not to be confused with design as it is understood in the art and design tradition.

In design-based research, the aim is to do research with designed interventions into real-world situations. As a such, it is in practice, one form of action research – not more. In design-based research design interventions are a research method. You do them to gain some data or ideas to build your pedagogical theory.

In design as discussed in the field of art and design, the designs (artifacts, tools, services) are the main outcomes of the activity. To draw routes to that outcome research helps. Research studying design, its methods and its results is design research (design-tutkimus).

I would love to see more design research in the field. In practice, it means that you will “get your hands dirty”, build a prototype, build a software.

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