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PHD-DESIGN  June 2012

PHD-DESIGN June 2012

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Subject:

Re: Research Through Design

From:

Ken Friedman <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and related research in Design <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Tue, 19 Jun 2012 22:54:49 +1000

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (111 lines)

Dear Tim,

You must have posted your note before I replied to Karel. As you’ll
see, our positions differ, but only modestly. I agree with what you say
– it’s a matter of modest differences.

We’re not speaking of senior or advanced forms of teaching research,
and we’re not speaking of asking PhD students to supervise. We’re
talking about helping them to develop the skills that will enable them
to do so. This starts with a sound research training, a solid research
project for the thesis, and it often includes opportunities to teach in
those research areas where a student has the skill to do so. In this
sense, a PhD program is, in part – not in the whole, but in part – a
place where PhD students gain the first skills that will later enable
them to teach research and later to supervise research training.

There is one issue on which we agree, but I don’t hold out much hope
to see it taking place. You write, “There is, however, one aspect that
I’ve not seen mentioned, but, from my work with researchers today,
both young and not so young, I see does need some attention: it is the
need for researchers to learn better how to be the judge of the quality
of their own work, and to be the keeper of that quality ... not leave
these basic aspects up to others to judge and control.”

There are many people in the world today with a PhD degree based on
inadequate education. They lack the experience and judgment that they
should have to judge the quality of their own work. This is even more
true of the significant number of design teachers without a PhD who are
being permitted to manage research training programs and permitted to
supervise doctoral students. This generally leads to graduated doctors
with significant gaps in knowledge, skill, and experience. These people
go on to duplicate their own gaps in knowledge, skill, and experience
when they teach.

The old seminar system and lab system in which junior researchers work
closely with senior researchers while earning their PhD helped to
transmit the craft of research. This included a wide range of cultural
understandings, with tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge working
together. 

The new programs with deficient researchers training deficient PhD
students also transmit a culture – it is the wrong culture.

It would be nice to think that the unqualified would know what they
can’t do – but that skill seems to be reserved for the qualified. On
this point, I refer to Don Norman’s (2010) post to Core77, “Why
Design Education Must Change.”

For the most part, I agree with your thoughts – modest nuances of
meaning shade the argument. I will to disagree mildly on one point. I
argue that examiners should, indeed, judge and control the quality of
the PhD thesis. If they did, we’d live in a world where more people in
design research could, indeed, judge their own skills and capacities –
and even improve them.

Yours,

Ken

Professor Ken Friedman, PhD, DSc (hc), FDRS | University Distinguished
Professor | Dean, Faculty of Design | Swinburne University of Technology
| Melbourne, Australia | [log in to unmask] | Ph: +61 3 9214 6078 |
Faculty www.swinburne.edu.au/design

--

Reference

Norman, Don. 2010. Why Design Education Must Change. Core77, 2010
November 26. At URL:
http://www.core77.com/blog/columns/why_design_education_must_change_17993.asp
Accessed 2012 June 19.

Tim Smithers wrote:

—snip—

I’m with you here! A PhD is a training in doing research, and needs
to be examined as such.

Loading other requirements on, such as Ken’s “training to teach
research” and Terry’s “project management” (and all that
entails), are not, in my view a good idea. 

First, as you say, it’s not clear how external examiners are to
assess and evaluate these capacities; and if the external examiners
don’t do this, who will?

Second, the PhD, as a training in doing research, is only the first
step in a professional development trajectory. A good post-doc position
should follow in which the researcher can learn about and how to do
these other aspects of doing good research. Next, as a junior faculty 
or junior researcher, he or she can co-supervise PhD students, and thus
learn from some co-doing, how to “teach research” ... assuming that
what we mean by teach here is supervising the doing. (In my experience,
new PhDs don’t make good PhD supervisors, and should not be expected
to do this kind of work without first having some good(!) co-supervising
experiences. A PhD isn’t a license for anything. It’s not a 
qualification granted by a recognised and established professional
body.)

I’m impressed by the number of words others need to talk about and
discuss something that seems to me not to be overly complicated.  There
is, however, one aspect that I’ve not seen mentioned, but, from my
work with researchers today, both young and not so young, I see does
need some attention: it is the need for researchers to learn better how
to be the judge of the quality of their own work, and to be the keeper
of that quality ... not leave these basic aspects up to others to judge
and control.

—snip—

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