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PHD-DESIGN  August 2009

PHD-DESIGN August 2009

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Subject:

Re: Structure for practice based PhD

From:

David Durling <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

David Durling <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 6 Aug 2009 15:50:24 +0100

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Hi Chris Kueh and all,

I understand very well why you would ask this question - I guess the debate is similar to discussions that I have experienced in several institutions where the teaching of professional design practice is/has moved towards research. I guess also that in asking this question, your query centres on the appropriateness of the use of design practice within a PhD study. This is indeed an old debate on this list and in other places. I have no appetite to list all those debates, but I will make some observations from my own experiences.

I came to the academy in 1996 having completed a PhD (without design practice) in a reputable department. My first postdoctoral role was as a [newly created post of] research director in a school of art and design. I inherited four PhD students who had been registered for some time. All were heading towards failure. This was a classic problem of that time: a department new to research; little or no research training for students; supervisors who did not themselves hold the PhD; and a lack of understanding about the form of the PhD, its history, and the ways in which it had been applied in many other disciplines. Three of these students were rescued from their plight, one didn't make it. Sadly, this was not uncommon at that time.

Since than, PhD programmes have improved, but my impression is that they have not moved forward in quality to the degree that many departments may assert. However, it depends what you believe the PhD is for. In my view it remains primarily a training to become a researcher, that is someone with a broad knowledge of research methods, a knowledge of how to apply which methods under what conditions, and the ability to do all this independently. PhD is a process of learning by doing research practically. A PhD is about practice, the practice of research.

This brings us to the question of whether practice (designing) can be part of a PhD process. Of course it can, but it must be set within a recognisable research framework that seeks to derive new understanding - in this sense, designing [and possibly making] may be an excellent means to collect data. Engineering PhDs, for example, have done this for many years.

I also understand why practitioners - whose focus is on designing - should fixate on their research being practice-led or similar. When discussing proposals with prospective students, I don't care whether designing or making is part of the PhD. I only have concern for the possibility of the intended topic to be doable and to be a robust vehicle for the training programme.

While I can see that there are some subtleties about forms of investigative designing within a PhD process that offer more than data collection, this is still a long way from the claims that some make for 'practice-as-research', 'practice-based' or 'practice-led' research, or any number of similar terms that have little meaning. Some universities have accordingly gotten themselves in a pickle over 50:50 (practice:theory), or 'mixed mode' PhDs. I have yet to see a useful definition for any of these innovations.

I agree broadly with Ken's view of PhDs, indeed over the years he and I have organised a number of  journal special editions and conferences dealing with the doctorate generally and the PhD specifically.

There are of course several awards at doctoral level, many of which are not PhDs. This can be somewhat confusing though - I examined an Ed.D once that seemed everything that one would expect from a good PhD. However, generally professional doctorates may be awarded for professional practice. For example, my last employer, Middlesex University, has a very large scheme of professional doctorates run by its centre for work based learning - these doctorates are part time, set within the workplace, and deal with issues arising directly from the candidate's everyday work. They will clearly have a research element, but they are degrees awarded for advanced professional practice. I would not expect to employ such doctors for general research, or for the supervision of PhD students - that is not the training that they will have had. They may however be very effective practioners and agents for change within their workplace, arising from their studies.

Some students' research topics may be more suited to the professional doctorate, especially where the driver for undertaking the study is to advance professional design practice rather than developing high level research skills. In this context I welcome the growth of well taught professional doctorates. However, a couple of warnings... Professional doctorates can have a higher taught component than the general [UK/European] PhD, and resources are often stretched in supervision anyway. Secondly, in art and design there may not be a large market [at the moment] as the PhD is possibly regarded more highly. I know a couple of D.Arts programmes that have simply not taken off, and there seem few such programmes in the UK at the moment.

I tried summing up some of the background to the PhD debates [mainly in the UK] in a paper for an education journal - curiously, it has proven far more popular in education circles than in design. A short reading list of some publications that I have been involved in with others over the years is below. Some of the papers listed may be downloaded from the DART website at http://wwwdartevents.net under resources > 'doctoral studies or designing and research'. A rational overview of the doctoral scene across disciplines including art and design is the Green and Powell book. Kristina Niedderer and I have also tried to characterise several ways in which designing may be used forensically within a PhD process.

Gradually we all seem to grope our way towards an understanding of design practice within research, and the reasons for differences between doctorates. It is well worth looking at the work of Chris Rust and his students at Sheffield - Chris has been quietly and innovatively exploring design practice and PhDs for some years, and his students have IMHO achieved the best current pointers to the future.

David

---

Durling David.  (2002) Discourses on Research and the PhD in Design.  In Green, D. Howard and Malcolm Shaw, Editors. (2002) Quality Assurance in Education: Standards and the doctoral award, vol. 10, no. 2, 79-85.  ISSN 0968-4883.

Durling, D. and K. Niedderer. 2007. The benefits and limits of Investigative Designing. IASDR International Conference, Hong Kong.

Durling, David and Ken Friedman , Editors.  (2003)  Special edition of the ADCHE Journal, on best practice in the PhD in Design.  Vol. 1(3). Brighton: ADC-LTSN.

Durling, David, Ken Friedman and Paul Gutherson. (2003)  Editorial - Debating the Practice-based PhD.  In: International Journal of Design Sciences and Technology, 10(2), 7-18.  Europia: France.  ISSN 1630-7267.

Durling, David and Kazuo Sugiyama, editors.  (2003)  Proceedings of the Third Conference Doctoral Education in Design 14-17 October 2003. Japan: University of Tsukuba.  ISBN 4-9980776-2-7

Green, Howard, and Stuart Powell. 2005. Doctoral Study in Contemporary Higher Education. Open University Press. ISBN-13: 978 0335 21473 0

Langrish, J. 2000. Not everything made of steel is a battleship . In Durling, David and Ken Friedman, Editors. Proceedings of conference Doctoral Education in Design: Foundations for the Future, 8-12 July 2000, La Clusaz, France.  UK: Staffordshire University Press ISBN 1-897898-64-9

RUST, C. 2003. Many Flowers, Small Leaps Forward: debating doctoral education in design Art Design and Communication in Higher Education. Durling, David and Ken Friedman , Editors.  (2003)  Special edition of the ADCHE Journal, on best practice in the PhD in Design.  Vol. 1(3). Brighton: ADC-LTSN.

Shackleton, John and Kazuo Sugiyama. 2000. Journeymen and salarymen; Design doctorates in Japan. Durling, David and Ken Friedman, Editors. (2000)  Proceedings of conference Doctoral Education in Design: Foundations for the Future, 8-12 July 2000, La Clusaz, France.  UK: Staffordshire University Press ISBN 1-897898-64-9

Niedderer, K. and S. Roworth-Stokes. 2007. The role and Use of Creative Practice in Research and its Contribution to Knowledge. IASDR International Conference, Hong Kong.

-----
David Durling http://durling.tel






On Thursday, 06 August, 2009, at 03:59AM, "Christopher Kueh" <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>Dear all,
>
>
>
>There have been some discussions on structure for practice based PhD at Curtin University. Many supervisors/lecturers in Design and Art have voiced their concerns over the appropriateness of logic based structure for PhD with creative production component. I am just wondering what are the structures that other universities are having for practice/creative based PhD. Have there been such discussions/arguments at your universities and how did you solve it? What are the main differences between PhD and practice based PhD, in terms of the process and credibility?
>
>
>
>I am asking as i am currently chairing Graduate Studies for Design and Art at Curtin. Also my own PhD was not practice based, so i am hoping to get some insight on what others are doing with this PhD stucture.
>
>
>
>Looking forward to your comments and many thanks in advance!
>
>
>
>-chris
>
>
>
>
>
>Dr Christopher Kueh
>
>----------
>
>
>
>Lecturer + Chair of Graduate Studies, School of Design and Art
>
>
>
>Lecturer, School of Built Environment
>
>
>
>Chief Consultant, Design-Focused Research Group, http://research.humanities.curtin.edu.au/groups/dfrg/
>
>
>
>
>
>Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australia
>
>Tel: 08 9266 2972 Mob: 0431 862 619
>
>CRICOS Provider Code: 00301J (WA) 02637B (NSW)
>
>----------
>
>
>
>International Collaborative Partner, Faculty of Creative Industires,
>
>University Tunku Abdul Rahman, Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia
>
>www.utar.edu.my/fci
>
>----------
>
>_________________________________________________________________
>Share your memories online with anyone you want.
>http://www.microsoft.com/malaysia/windows/windowslive/products/photos-share.aspx?tab=1
>

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