Use of design principles for living labs

Jan Nedermeijer

Petra H. M. Cremers • Arjen E. J. Wals • Renate Wesselink • Martin Mulder describe in the article ‘Utilization of design principles for hybrid learning configurations by interprofessional design teams (Instr Sci (2017) 45:289–309 DOI 10.1007/s11251-016-9398-5) how design principles can be used in teams to design learning activities.

Educational design research (EDR)
The authors give a short description of Educational design research: ‘EDR is a research approach that combines scientific investigation with the construction of solutions to problems that arise in educational practice (McKenney and Reeves 2012). EDR typically yields design principles that can be used as heuristic guidelines for educational improvements (Lakkala et al. 2012). These design principles are intended to be utilized in contexts other than the one in which they were generated. As such, design principles can promote collaborative knowledge building in a range of communities that are involved in designing and exploring educational interventions. They can also assist novice designers in creating effective interventions (Kali et al. 2009).’

The purposes of the research
‘In this study, we investigate how this process can be facilitated. We developed and evaluated a so-called boundary crossing intervention in order to promote utilization of a set of research-based design principles in practice, using a guidebook and a prototyping exercise. The intervention aims to enhance perceived usefulness of the design principles, where there is the assumption that when it does, the likelihood of those principles actually being used in practice will increase as well.’
The design and the results of the experiment can be found in the article.

The set of design principles used in the experiment
‘The set of design principles that is utilized by design teams in this study underpins the design of so-called ‘hybrid learning configurations (HLC)’ at the interface between school and workplace.’ HLCs are also called, among others, ‘living lab’, ‘lab studio’ or innovation lab. In the HLC that was studied in an  EDR-project the learning processes by students as well as staff consisted of a mixture of work-based learning strategies, including organized educational activities, and self-directed learning and learning from peers and experts in working practice.

 Table 1 Design principles for a hybrid learning configuration

Table Desogn principles

Design principles
The authors describe the concept of Design principles:
‘Most EDR projects strive to develop educational interventions as well as design propositions or principles that can inform the development of such interventions by others outside the original field-testing context (McKenney and Reeves 2012). The interventions can be seen as the practical output of design research, whereas the design principles can be considered the theoretical output. This theoretical output can be more general and abstract, or very specific and directive. In this study, we explore utilization of a set of more abstract design principles, also referred to as ‘high-level conjectures’ or ‘meta-principles’. Such design principles indicate how to support some form of learning in general terms (Sandoval 2014) and thereby enable utilization in a range of settings in which designers develop new features in accordance with the characteristics of their particular context. Features may include artefacts, tools, activities or social and organizational aspects. For instance a feature of the design principle ‘fostering authenticity’ could be that everyone in a community relates to one another as colleagues, rather than as students and lecturers.

Design principles can be used to design new educational interventions by researchers or practitioners but also to assess or evaluate current educational practices (Lakkala et al. 2012). This process, according to McKenney and Reeves (2012), requires creative thinking or ideation alongside analytical thinking. Kali (2006) p. 198 describes the design process as follows. She states that when researchers articulate a design principle as a result of a study in a certain area, ‘‘they provide theoretical background and connect the pragmatic principles with one or more features. […] This provides field-based evidence and illustrates how the principle was applied in a specific context. […] Then, another research group uses the information provided in the design principle to design new features and explore them in new contexts’’. Over time, this can result in design principles being refined, altered, supplemented or even discarded.’

Concluding remarks
‘As mentioned in the introduction, it is important that design teams of educational interventions work from a shared vision or rationale and that high-quality support is available. Both of these are crucial for successful instructional design, which, in turn, is expected to enhance learning by students and others who participate in educational interventions.

In this study, we developed and evaluated an intervention that aimed to promote utilization of a set of design principles as the rationale for the design of HLCs through enhancing perceived usefulness of the principles. Our assumption was, that when design principles are perceived as being useful, this can increase the likelihood of actual use of the principles in practice. The intervention appeared to generate the desired outcomes: most of the participants considered the set of HLC design principles useful and expected that utilization of the principles would lead to an improved HLC. In addition, three of the four design teams that participated in this study indicated that they had subsequently used the design principles for the (re)design of their HLC.

These generally positive findings can be the starting point of a deeper investigation of how design teams make sense of the principles and apply them in their practical design reasoning. In addition, further research could be directed towards different ways of support for design teams. Longitudinal case studies could reveal whether the benefits of utilizing the design principles that are suggested in this study can be fully realized.’

Open Access The article of the authors is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.

Guidebook living labs. Tool for designing and evaluating living labs at the interface between school and workplace. Petra H.M. Cremers. Hanze University of applied sciences, 2015

Handreiking  innovatiewerkplaatsen. Hulpmiddel voor het ontwerpen en evalueren van innovatiewerkplaatsen op het grensvlak tussen onderwijs, onderzoek en beroepspraktijk. Petra H.M. Cremers. Hanzehogeschool Groningen, 2015.

Another example in the website related with design principles
Design framework Group learning activities: Miranda de Hei, Jan­Willem Strijbos, Ellen Sjoer, and Wilfried Admiraal give in their article another example of a set of design principles to be used for design of group work. Thematic review of approaches to design group learning activities in higher education: The development of a comprehensive framework 

Literature from the article

  1. Cremers, P. H. M., Wals, A. E. J., Wesselink, R., & Mulder, M. (2016). Design principles for hybrid learning configurations at the interface between school and workplace. Learning Environments Research, 19(3), 309–334.
  2. Kali, Y., Levin-Peled, R., & Dori, Y. J. (2009). The role of design-principles in designing courses that promote collaborative learning in higher-education. Computers in Human Behavior, 25(5), 1067–1078.
  3. Lakkala, M., Iloma¨ ki, L., Paavola, S., Kosonen, K., & Muukkonen, H. (2012). Using trialogical design principles to assess pedagogical practices in two higher education courses. In A. Moen, A. I. Morch, & S. Paavola (Eds.), Collaborative knowledge creation (pp. 141–161). Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
  4. McKenney, S., & Reeves, T. C. (2012). Conducting educational design research. Oxon, London: Routledge.
  5. Sandoval, W. (2014). Conjecture mapping: an approach to systematic educational design research. Journal of the learning sciences, 23(1), 18–36.
Tool for designing, evaluating and collaborative knowledge building of hybrid learning configurations (HLC) (903.88 KB)