to trouble when you say,
> In terms of struggling to learn or write in an academic way- i feel this is
> mainly a problem of the school or institution that is teaching.
following Dorothy Smith, my understanding of 'institution' is the social interaction on a local scale
between particular people and the material environment in a specific historical moment and physical
place, rather than an entity or education program. While your experiences are similar to those of
the people in my study, we might look at this from a slightly different epistemological position than
that which perpetuates the idea of it being an institutional problem. Based on talking to PhD students
in many other fields, my understanding is that they also struggle to learn new skills in an ongoing
process of 'becoming-scholarly', albeit in different ways to designers. There is a large literature on
transformative learning (Mezirow 1981, 1997; Taylor 1998) that suggests that struggle, albeit with
the right balance between challenge and skills set, is necessary for deep rather than surface
learning (throughout life).
However, what I have learned from my research is that the people in my study draw on all their
skills as they interact with individual students in particular classroom contexts, including those
generated through design practice and those generated through the practice of scholarly research.
This means that these people are guiding undergraduate students towards research through their
own research (and design) practices that become embedded in their teaching practices, difficult to
separate, difficult to articulate and very, very difficult to justify with undergraduate students for the
reasons I suggested previously. Yet they are doing it nonetheless, each person, one class at a time.
My study suggests that what you speak about is happening, it's just not particularly well understood
partly because it escapes documentation, and partly because it is difficult to write about and
'evidence' in quantifiable terms and therefore value in a disciplinary context that is still finding its
research 'legs', which means there is a very small and narrow theoretical tradition on which to draw.
> I feel that this is largely to do with (and im sure i will be corrected)
> the fact that at an undergraduate level, to be a designer you need to perfect
> your craft before you can 'reflect' upon it.
I also suggest that the idea of perfecting craft, and separating 'design' from 'research' within this
term, reinforces the problems of which you speak. A university education (in design, for example)
might be considered a way of preparing people to identify what they need to learn for the future by
expanding their thinking and capacities in various ways through intimate introductions (through their
interactions with teachers and through a design lens) to new and foreign fields. Which, according to
my research, is what is happening on a very low key level and in localised ways. I assume there are
many other design academics on this list who are doing this too, but what they do and how they do
it goes unnoticed primarily because of the lack of value afforded in what Strathern calls the
contemporary 'audit culture' in universities that values quantifiable evidence of scholarship
measured for example, through publications audit systems. What interests me is on what fields do
design academics base their theorisations if not design, and in which arenas do they publish if not
Mezirow, J, 1981, A critical theory of adult learning and education, Education for Adults, Vol. 1
Mezirow, J, 1997, "Transformative Learning: Theory to Practice", in Transformative Learning in
Action: Insights from Practice. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education. no. 74, P. Cranton
(Ed), Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, pp. 5–12.
Smith, DE, 1987, The everyday world as problematic: a feminist sociology, Northeastern University
Strathern, M, 2000, Audit cultures: anthropological studies in accountability, ethics, and the
academy, Routledge, London
Taylor, E. 1998, The theory and practice of transformative learning: a critical review, Information
Series No. 374.