An approach to participatory instructional design in secondary education: an exploratory study

K.D. Könings*, Saskia Brand-Gruwel, Jeroen Van Merriënboer

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Background: Teachers have limited insight in students’ perspectives on education, although these perspectives influence quality of learning. As students’ and teachers’ perspectives differ considerably, there is a need for teachers to learn more about students’ experiences and ideas about education. Participatory design might be a good strategy to take student perspectives into account in instructional design. In areas outside education, the positive effects of participation have already been demonstrated. Purpose: The main goals of this exploratory study are to develop an approach – based on the principles of participatory design – for student participation in instructional design, and to evaluate how students and teachers experience the discussion about possible changes in the design and how they cooperate in designing lessons. Additionally, the study investigates whether the used approach is workable and suitable for use with a range of courses. Sample: The sample consisted of six teachers (of mathematics, economics and English) from two secondary schools in the Netherlands and their tenth grade pre-university students (N = 139; average age, 16 years). In each class, a small group of seven co-designing students was selected as a representative sample of their class. All other students in these classes (i.e., those not directly involved in participatory re-design) were also included, as evaluators of the proposed changes. Design and methods: A participatory design meeting was organized for each group separately. In all groups, the same approach for participatory design was used. The quality of the meeting and the agreement with the proposed changes were evaluated using open questions. The questions were answered individually by both teachers and co-designing students. The remaining students answered questions about their agreement with the proposed changes. The written answers were analyzed using a coding scheme. Results: Findings suggest that both teachers and co-designing students were largely satisfied with the meeting. The atmosphere was experienced predominantly as comfortable and enough opportunities were provided to express thoughts and ideas. Teachers, additionally, stated that the usability of students’ suggestions was good. The remaining students predominantly agreed on the proposed changes discussed. No differences were found between the evaluation scores of students of different courses. Conclusions: The main conclusion from this exploratory study is that participatory design appears suitable for use in education. The approach used for initiating and structuring the discussion between the teacher and his/her students was appropriate for designing lessons, according to all those involved. As this study suggests, the barriers to the inclusion of students in the instructional design process are not insurmountable, and there are compelling reasons for implementing participatory design in education.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)55-59
    Number of pages5
    JournalEducational Research
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2010


    • student perceptions
    • instructional design
    • student engagement


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