STUDIO / DESIGNER
Design Education & Research
Design Challenge and Design Ideas
Education has a key role to play in shaping our society. Ongoing reform of education locally and globally has called for a move from the teacher-centred ‘delivery of content’ mode of education, to a student-centred one, with a focus on the development of competences through the curriculum. The Designing Learning PhD project examined the application of design learning in the context of ongoing reform in second-level education in Ireland. The research explored how the process of engaging young people in design learning experiences can support them in the development of key skills and competences, by giving them the tools and the confidence to become empowered agents in their own learning. Findings from the research indicate that the competencies prioritised as part of ongoing reform are consistent with the learning outcomes characteristic of design education. The project ran from 2011 to 2018, culminating in the submission and award of a PhD.
How the brief was fulfilled
Over the course of the Designing Learning project, a design workshop was developed and actively explored across various settings, both within and beyond school, over six iterative cycles. Hedge School Dublin, the primary instance of the workshop, brought together the findings from the first five workshops, and was positioned deliberately in an out-of-school context, in the NCAD Gallery, an environment designed to support design learning.
The project demonstrated that by engaging in a real-world design challenge, the participants gained a sense of awareness, understanding and a new perspective towards learning. Following the Hedge School workshop students returned to school with a greater sense of responsibility and ownership of their learning. Collaborating on a common design project, the participants developed confidence in themselves and their ideas through sharing and discussing ideas and opinions with others. The participants developed social and interpersonal skills by collaborating to deliver a final design outcome, negotiating and making shared decisions. Furthermore, the findings indicate that through the process of engaging with various hands-on designerly ways of learning, the students developed the competence to adapt their learning to contexts and situations beyond the workshop, thus enabling them to be more autonomous in their learning.
The contemporary context of design presents enormous opportunities to engage second-level students in authentic learning experiences, tackling complex real-world design challenges where they have to find problems that are worthwhile and meaningful to solve. By engaging in the design workshops students developed an understanding of the role of design in bringing about change in the world, and they became aware of their responsibility as active members of society. Furthermore, through the experience of designing, participants began to develop capabilities to make sense of an increasingly complex world and that enable them to imagine alternative futures and take action by making them real.
Within the Irish education system the benefits and value of design education are yet to be recognised. The Designing Learning project demonstrated that, by operating outside the curriculum, there is scope to engage learners in authentic design learning which provides opportunities for autonomous learning, to work in teams, to think critically and to be curious and creative.
Note the Hedge School Dublin workshop was run in a collaborative manner, however the research study was conducted independently.