Human-centred design to empower “teachers as designers”

Muriel Garreta-Domingo, Peter B. Sloep and Davinia Hernández-Leo

In the abstract the authors summarize the results of their research.

Educators of all sectors are learning designers, often unwittingly. To succeed as designers, they need to adopt a design mindset and acquire the skills needed to address the design challenges they encounter in their everyday practice.

Human-centred design (HCD) provides professional designers with the methods needed to address complex problems. It emphasizes the human perspective throughout the design lifecycle and provides a practice-oriented approach, which naturally fits educators’ realities.

This research reports the experiences of educators who used HCD to design ICT-based learning activities. A mixed-methods approach was used to gauge how participating educators experienced design tasks. The perceived level of difficulty and value of the various methods varied, revealing significant differences between educators according to their level of knowledge of pedagogy frameworks.

We discuss our findings from the vantage point of educators’ pedagogical beliefs and how experience shapes these. The results support the idea that HCD is a valuable framework for educators, one that may inform ongoing international efforts to shape a science and practice of learning design for teaching.

Some relevant characteristics of educational design
It is commonly accepted that educators (teachers) are designers of learning opportunities. Much as in design generally, teaching is a highly complex activity that draws on many kinds of knowledge. Also, teaching occurs in ill-structured, dynamic environments and, as a result, deals with so-called wicked problems. Also, as in design, teaching is iterative: there is continuous enactment and subsequent tweaking of activities and resources. Despite these similarities, little research has been devoted to the potential benefits that a design stance may have for the design of learning. This paper focuses on a particular approach to design: human-centred design (HCD). Our key hypothesis is that the design practices of educators will benefit from incorporating HCD practices. The literature references can be found in their article.

In the Practitioner Notes the authors describe:

What is already known about teachers as designers:

  • The role of design in education is gaining attention.
  • Educators are de-facto designers but lack sufficient knowledge of design processes and methods.
  • The studio-based teaching concept fits naturally with teaching human-centred design (HCD).

What this paper adds:

  • Insights in the application of the HCD process and methods in a teacher training environment.
  • Insights in how to support educators in acquiring a design mindset.
  • Insights in how educators perceive HCD as a process and insights in HCD methods.

Implications for practice and/or policy:

  • For learning design researchers: directions in which way they can further advance their field.
  • For learning design practitioners: considerations on how to support educators in acquiring a design mindset and design skills.
  • For policymakers and educational institution administrators: guidance for setting up teacher professional development.

British Journal of Educational Technology doi:10.1111/bjet.12682