DESIGN RESEARCH TOWARDS THE CREATION OF SUSTAINABLE POSTGRADUATE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS
University of the Free State (SOUTH AFRICA)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Conference name: 6th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 18-20 November, 2013
Location: Seville, Spain
Abstract:The paper reports on how through the use of design research, our research team has managed to successfully create sustainable learning environments for our 28 PhD and 22 MEd postgraduate students. There are many theories informing design research in education. Ours is adapted from David Perkins's version of "Knowledge as Design". Our postgraduate students rather than merely describe what is happening at our research site(s) or explain it, they go beyond to design framework(s) and strategies to attempt to resolve particular real life problems at those sites. In doing so they firstly conduct thorough situation analysis to ensure that whatever strategy are being contemplated meet and respond to real and experienced needs at the site of investigation. This situation analysis takes many forms, ranging from; interrogation of the literature during the conceptual phase of our studies to actual strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis during the operational stage of our research. The idea is to formulate a template onto which the emerging strategy is mapped. The logic is to look for possible and plausible solutions both from the literature and empirically. No research is entirely new. This becomes the crux of the whole project, that is; to formulate an informed strategy, based on cutting edge knowledge available throughout the world. Once the emerging strategy has been formulated the next task is to conduct a meta-cognitive analysis both theoretically and practically on what contextual factors made the previous strategies and the emerging one to be successful and also to anticipate possible and plausible threats so as to build in mechanisms to circumvent such. The final objective of our projects is to investigate into the indicators of success or lack thereof. The logic of the sequence of these tasks have made research manageable and interesting because the researchers always find what they are doing to be meaningful. While the theoretical origin of the above-mentioned organising principles is different from the participatory action research which couches all our projects, we found many and powerful points of compatibility between the two. These have enabled us to have real life problems of teaching, learning, curriculum and governance in schools where the postgraduate students work on full time basis as the starting point. In line with participatory action research as the theoretical framework, the researchers did not impose the topics for investigation on the participants, but these emerged directly from the participants' experiences, fears and aspirations instead, with the researchers facilitating the process of formulating them for purposes of focus and scoping in terms of time and resources available. Research coordinating teams at each of the local schools have been put together to drive the research process through the five organising principles. On fortnightly bases these teams meet and then on monthly basis the students together with the supervising team meet to discuss the emerging strategies and frameworks. Students have become competent in various research theoretical and methodological approaches and the throughput rate has also increased. There is a notable increase in the number of learners that perform well at the schools where our students work and do research.
Keywords: Design research, participatory action research, sustainable learning environments.