Loughborough University
Leicestershire, UK
LE11 3TU
+44 (0)1509 263171
Loughborough University

Loughborough Design School

Design Education Research Group


Key interests

Action research in secondary and higher education

It is widely recognised that action research is the key route through which design education in general education in the UK emerged to its world-leading position.

This form of research was pursued in the PhD research programme recently successfully completed by Michael Thomas in his exploration of the unexpectedly high achievement levels in design and technology of otherwise disaffected students in his school.

Similarly, action research is one of the strategies being pursued by Alexandros Mettas in his research concerning design decision-making by students aged 12-15 in schools in Cyprus.

Gisli Thorsteinsson's research develops the DERG's expertise in action research within a PhD project concerning the use of a Virtual Learning Environment to support ideation in the context of Innovation Education in Icelandic secondary schools, which is described in more detail below.

Virtual reality and Innovation Education (IE)
Gisli Thorsteinsson

The innovation education model developed in Iceland was not aimed at a specific age group but has been much explored with children aged 9-16 years. A Virtual Reality (VR) has been developed to enhance the innovation education pedagogical model.

The internalisation of the needed fundamental skills and related sub-skills to use the VR system, as well as those needed for innovation education, are studied and learned in phases.

Initially students have lessons to introduce the fundamental skills of using the virtual environment as a tool for different subtasks in innovation processes. Avatars are tested and students engage with the VR environment in shared knowledge construction. Tools such as whiteboards and interactive prototypes from the students are explored. The students observe each other's inventions and designs through presentations on browsers.

Communications tools, such as small text messaging and speaking together, are also practised. Students share their needs and expertise with others in a technology-mediated group collaboration process, which leads them within a group-to-group Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).

An example outcome from the project so far is a paper Ideation in a Virtual Learning Environment: a pilot project from Iceland in innovation education.

Action research is closely associated with curriculum innovation. The Department's Industrial Design and Technology programmes are in need of constant renewal and one action research programme is investigating future issues in university product design education and in particular the teaching and learning of user research in user led innovation.

Paul Wormald's and Michael Rodber's related action research programme seeks to enhance the long-term relevance and success of the Department's design programmes by investigating multi-disciplinary working in design along with the needs of professional design practice. A paper relating to these projects was recently published at the CLTAD Lisbon 2006 conference.

Because of the importance of this research method to the DERG the 2007- IDATER Online Conference is taking place in this area.

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