Design researcher learning through and for collaboration with practitioners

Susan McKenney, Saskia Brand-Gruwel

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperAcademic

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    Design research is a genre of inquiry in which the iterative development of solutions to problems in practice provides the setting for scientific inquiry. To conduct ecologically valid studies that also yield relevant and usable solutions, design research is carried out together with practitioners in authentic learning settings – not laboratories. Researchers and practitioners collaborate to analyze the problems being tackled, and to develop and refine solutions, which are informed by (formative) evaluation along the way. In these studies, the function of the investigator is typically multifaceted, including the roles of: consultant/facilitator, designer, and researcher. While most design researchers are afforded formal opportunities to develop their research skills (e.g. through seminars and courses on research design, interview techniques, data analysis, etc.), the consultant/facilitator and designer skills receive far less explicit attention and tend to be learned informally, at best. If design research is to realize its potential contribution to the field of learning and instruction, then explicit attention must be given to developing researcher learning of key competencies within and across each role. As role-specific guidance is already available in professional literature, this paper focuses on four foundational competencies that are needed across all three roles, in each phase of design research: empathy, orchestration, flexibility, and social competence. After briefly discussing the goals, nature and processes of design research, the roles and competencies are introduced, followed by a framework for design researcher learning that takes place through, and stands to serve, collaboration with practitioners. Implications for supporting design researcher learning are also discussed.


    Conference16th Biennial EARLI Conference for Research on Learning and Instruction
    Abbreviated titleEARLI 2015
    Internet address


    • design research
    • practitioner collaboration


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