PhD Candidate, Monash University
Website by Amici
Part 2 presents ‘Making Space’, undertaken as Project Grounded Research (PGR) within this doctoral study. Substantive analysis of methods emerging from data collected from Making Space is outlined in Part 3. This Part 2 focuses on workshop activities, research design and practices, and crucially, the participants.
- 2.1 provides background and context for ‘Making Space’, outlines a research design, locates the practice, and who and how we engaged participants;
- 2.2 details the workshops—how they were delivered and, in turn, how they were received;
- 2.3 will segue into the final Part 3 of this thesis by way of a burgeoning ‘joining’ through collaboration at the site of this inquiry. ‘Joining’ evolves through designerly modes as the research focus shifts towards making sense of co-designing.
2.1 Background & Context
Chapter 2.1 outlines the background leading up to a research design for the Making Space project. The research design will present how the workshops were developed, including the context of how the workshops developed from within the ILETC program. Further description of workshops is provided in chapter 2.2, followed by emergent concepts in 2.3, which leads into a more substantive discussion of ‘joining’ in Part 3.
2.1.1 ‘Regional Workshops’
Before designing and delivering Making Space, a series of ‘Regional Workshops’ (ILETC, 2016—2020) was designed with, and for, the ILETC program as an innovative approach to priming the research space the ILETC program was investigating. These Regional Workshops became a significant case study preceding ‘Making Space’. Workshops informed a substantial contribution to how subsequent approaches to working with participant-teachers was developed through modes of co-creation.
Regional Workshops deployed an ILETC mode of ‘design thinking’ as a strategy to elicit data and to engage with participants. The use of design-informed processes that point to innovative approaches in deepening our understanding of teacher practice is significant for the ILETC research reporting (Mahat et al. 2017). Workshops were determined by ILETC research questions and aligned with broader research aims of the program. ILETC workshop outcomes provided the Making Space project with a primer—an opportunity to engage with collaborative practice-led inquiry and model how Making Space might take shape.
Before the Project: Learning from the Program
The ‘Regional Workshops’ signalled an opportunity to develop a burgeoning sense of how to approach teacher participants through co-design. Workshops were a significant model of how to build capacity with teachers through modes of creative making. Conversations addressed how we perceive the affordances of an ILE in the context of their practice (Mahat et al. 2017). The design-led workshops connected teachers to their ILE and their practice. Design-led workshops were built to generate conversations that bring teachers closer to revelations about how they practice by surfacing values and beliefs. These design-led workshops presented the activity of designing to the teachers as a strategy for them to ‘show’ rather than ‘tell’ the story of their practice. Teachers employed a material thinking process as a means to communicate their practice to themselves, and each other—making tangible how ILEs could become closer to the teacher’s range of practice-led expertise in activating the potential of learning environments more broadly. Building value through design hands over the ‘making’ of that value to the teacher-practitioner. We worked to facilitate the connection between the intrinsic, often latent, values of practice, to the extrinsic markers of expertise, made visible through co-creation.
The role of design can also be conceived as a facilitating agent through which conversations take place. Through making, iterating, and visualising the story of change, teachers had permission and opportunity to envision their practice as an active conversation between themselves, their schools and school leaders. The connections teachers make form the potential to develop meaningful knowledge to engage their practice. This invariably requires change, and the destabilising and often disorientating process of change can be bewildering. Design, in this context, acts to conciliate a sense-making process that can excite the possibilities of change—not through denuding immanent complexity—rather by allowing play to negotiate the complicated messiness, drawing out the full gamut of teacher agency. These approaches highlight the role of designing for non-designers as a medium for engaging creative methods that reveal new potentialities. Creative inquiry, adequately facilitated, has the potential to make known a greater expression of understanding. However, to appreciate the inner workings of creative strategies, furthering our capacity to comprehend the outcomes of this process might be of assistance.
Data Collection & Analysis
In the ILETC workshops, data analysis “utilised traditional qualitative data analysis approach, including coding, identification of themes, triangulation, model building and theory linkage of responses on post-its, text derived from the worksheets, and illustrations or models provided by participants” (Mahat et al. 2017, p. 16). In keeping with this qualitative data analysis, the technical report continues to note that; “design thinking approaches required some modification to ensure that categorical data was collected from the sessions to allow for this analysis. Collecting participant responses via coloured post-it notes, photographs of assemblages, and short written responses served this need” (Ibid p. 16). This approach presents a tension for the design researcher gathering data from generative workshop encounters. Suppose the data produced is revealed through designerly methods. How might design research engage with methodological analysis of data that leads to an accurate derivation of meaningful analysis consistent with the design intent? The workshop design looks to surface what is not known as well as what is created or imagined future scenarios. A traditional qualitative analysis looks at the world as it is, whereas a designerly approach looks at how the world could be. The ‘Regional Workshops’ were generating data that was corralled through methods foreign to design practice. Methods from traditions of qualitative analysis were foreign to my practice, and this led to questions around how we make sense of data generated through the sense-making of co-design practice.
This research argues that design can surface an unexpected framing of knowledge that is adjacent to qualitative methodologies, and that unsettles the hypothesis through conceptual reframing. To fully comprehend the role of this knowledge, and design expertise in this context, a stronger appreciation of methodologies that could contribute to how we conceptualise the role of design in interdisciplinary contexts requires further analysis, an opportunity I took up with the ‘Making Space’ project. The question remains as to how we derive meaning from this synthesis of data and how design thinking workshops present a capacity to reveal a plethora of data that can be challenging to interpret. What the ILETC approach revealed to me was a gap in how we ‘read’ the outcomes of collaborative creativity in the context of interdisciplinary research. It seemed like the qualities of designing that led to the generation of data were not being used to analyse data outcomes. Be uncomfortable with the data analysis led me to consider how we might develop methods that better respond to the affective fabric of designing. How might these methods be understood in ways that are emergent and processual?
The ‘Regional Workshops’ primed my co-design practice to consider how we might create workshops alongside attendant methodologies, building knowledge through the collaboration at the site of the research entanglement.
At this point, I sense new forms filtering through the interstices of this delicate negotiation with practice. I have, of course, collaborated as a designer—but this felt different because the object of the designing was so clearly social.
This time the ‘proof’ appeared before me as a set of relations being built in-between ‘Things’. A ‘proof’ was ‘materialising’ through creative play with participants who had focused investment in the outcomes of the design. I have never really designed like that before. Suspended in-between the PD ‘Thing’ and the ‘no-thing’. Vertigo ensues.
The outcomes of the ‘Regional Workshops’ speak to some fundamental aspect of co-design that is emerging through my engagement with this research. Locating this interdisciplinarity is an emergent state of sense-making that led to how I approach the research design of ‘Making Space’.
Figure 8: Scenes from the “Regional Workshops”, ILETC 2016
2.1.2 Making Space: Research Design
A Collaborative Approach
Making Space was conceived as an innovative methodological pairing of Participatory Action Research (PAR) (Denzin and Lincoln 2005), and Co-design (Melo, 2018). This collaboration was conceived as an instrument for exploring teachers’ practice development in relation to new learning spaces. As collaborative researchers, we aimed to integrate information, methods, data, tools, concepts and theories from respective bodies of knowledge (Klein, 2015).
Methods employed in Making Space became fundamental to the creation of data characterised by an interaction across the PAR and Co-design approaches. Generative collaboration was significant for the ILETC program, as Making Space uncovered knowledge in partnership with teachers through the integration of their lived experience within the research framework. The significance of Making Space for this PhD lies in the opportunity of researching as a Participant Observer (PO) within the PAR, developing co-design methods that situates designing within interdisciplinary research methodology.
Initially, this felt like a compromise of the practice-led research I had envisaged for co-design. It deferred to the more systematic methods of PAR as the main conceptual frame …
Making Space required negotiation with the interdisciplinary ‘in-between-ness’ (Fensham and Heller-Nicholas 2018, p. 29) encountered within the ILETC program. A sense of compromise is felt when qualitative research methods or quantitative data gathering seems counter to the creative and emergent methodologies typically employed by design practice-led research. Social scientist Mike Michaels has outlined an elegy to compromise experienced in his interdisciplinary work with design researchers (Michael 2018, p. 279). His experiences share tensions that arise when there’s a mixed appraisal of the value of divergence in research. That is an unsystematic ‘playful’ engagement with the users of the design vs. systematic data collection for assessment and analysis. It suggests the need to evaluate the ways in which we attach values to our research methods. Michael places value in the clarity of a research question—and the empirical evidence that emerges from a rigorous investigation. For design researchers, question(s) emerge from doing the research.
Designers, Michaels observes, are just as interested in framing of the knowledge as they are concerned with investigating the processes that went into making the research artefacts. Although initially threatened by the designerly approach, through compromise, he could appreciate the emergent nature of designer’s practice-led research and began to see it becoming the machinery of interdisciplinary research (ibid, p. 280). Michaels recognised how practices make the realities of ontologies (Stengers and Annemarie Mol 2002, in Michaels 2018), and these ecologies of practice (Stengers 2008) yield divergent ontologies. Compromising, therefore, emerges ‘practically, locally and iteratively’ (Michael 2018, p. 282). Making Space integrates the systematic observations of PAR, with the creative ‘play’ of co-design. The interdisciplinarity initiated a push-pull of disciplinary tensions and developed into a productive tensity of ‘joining’. In this case, ‘joining’ describes the state of becoming I felt in understanding how I might ‘compromise’ as I iterate my way through the practice-led emergence of the research process.
Methodology: PAR and Co-design - a ‘Meshwork’
To reiterate, chapter 1.1 describes how the PAR methodology directed this collaborative fieldwork, while co-design workshops were used to generate and collect data. The initial calibration of this project was framed by co-design in service to the PAR and ILETC research objectives. The overall research design illustrated in figure 1 outlines an embedded case study approach (Yin, 2014).
Fig. 9: ‘Meshwork’: PAR + Co-design
As this process unfolded, a stronger sense of ‘joining’ emerged. Tim Ingold’s (2015) notion of a meshwork illustrates this research collaboration as a social inquiry from which I began to formulate my research framing Both PAR and Co-design employ distinct research approaches which rethink the relationship between, and foreground, the participant as researcher. PAR is known as a ‘practice-changing practice’ approach which aims to “change practices, people’s understanding of their practices, and the conditions under which they practice” (Kemmis et al., 2014). PAR considers participants as co-researchers (rather than the researched), and they are therefore expected to make decisions about what to explore and what to change. PAR also encourages participants to form a community of practice, to develop improved understandings of their current situations, and to determine what actions may be required to both individually and collectively transform practices to meet the needs of changing times and circumstances (Kemmis et al. 2014). In so doing, participants may take ownership of the process, empowering them in the process of change. Through an iterative cycle, participants may plan change(s), act and observe change(s), reflect on the process and consequences of change(s), and then re-plan, act, observe and reflect again.
Similarly, Co-design employs ‘designerly’ modes of inquiry, as participants make and ‘show’ their voice through a material heuristic (Sanders & Stappers, 2012). These approaches informed workshops where the researchers actively involved teachers in design processes to ensure the designed outcomes met their particular needs. In this way, the use of Co-design strategies provided a pathway for participants to reflect on their own practices and gain deeper insights into the sites of their practice.
2.1.3 The Practice
A clearer sense of a co-design practice proceeded from the suite of ‘design thinking’ approaches in the ‘Regional Workshops’. Each workshop in ‘Making Space’ was framed by a question derived from the PAR study. These framed the design of workshop experiences; however, the workshops afforded this practice-led inquiry a shift toward focusing on collaborating through design with the teacher-participants.
The interest in this site of inquiry comes from training as a high school teacher. I’m interested in exploring ways in which teachers can build communities of learning themselves. To design them as engaged and effective and exciting. The pull toward this is important to me. I have worked in schools as a teacher, and I’m acutely aware of the pressures of teaching, and the way that structures and systems that encircle teachers and form prohibitive layers that act to ossify practice.
When you work in a school, you get the sense that teachers are dulled by the very ‘professional development’ that purports to support practice. This always saddened me and has led me to this room, this workshop with these teachers, talking about what makes us tick. Wonder and curiosity might illuminate transformational refraction—the precious luminance of intrinsic motivation. Why do we do this? I suspect these invisible and unrealised forces are more powerful than the extrinsic clamp of ’professional development’.
Activities introduced the teachers to the research, how they might actively contribute to the study, and how the research is applying reciprocal use for their practice as they transition into teaching in an ILE. Designerly ways of knowing are embedded in practice, in the making and doing that is part of the design process. As part of this research process, in order to enable participants to discuss and share their insights openly, it was considered important to quickly develop an understanding of this designerly approach as a way of learning and collaborating.
In discussing the use of making as part of the study, one teacher noted “doing hands-on activities with these teachers I don’t get to spend a lot of time with, and to do different things, that sort of broke down the barriers and got us working as a team” (Teacher A, School A). A capacity to communicate through designing was taken into consideration in this collaborative research context. Engaging participation through designing is not only instrumental as a method—but it also responds to the broader demands of practice transformation (Barry, Born, & Weszkalnys, 2008).
2.1.4 The Participants
Two groups of teachers (n= 11-14) were recruited to participate from two different girls’ secondary schools (Years 7-12) in Sydney, Australia: both in the process of designing, constructing and inhabiting new ILEs.
School A is a large Catholic girls’ secondary school with a population of nearly 1000 students. The school has an agenda to transform learning in order to build students’ capacity to learn, create and adapt to a fast-changing world. This transformation agenda relates to five key components including pedagogy, professional learning, pathways, partnerships and learning spaces. Pedagogical development is expected to support inquiry-based and student-centred approaches where students will learn alongside partners from industry, university and government. Teachers will work together using data and research to develop best practice in supporting students in the pathway or qualifications which best suit them. Major improvement of buildings and therefore, learning spaces is seen to be one of the components required to support the schools’ transformation agenda. A Commonwealth Government Capital Grant has enabled a major building project at the school involving the replacement and refurbishment of spaces which have been deemed not to meet building standards or are inadequate for contemporary learning.
School B is also a Catholic girls’ school. At the time of the research, it had an enrollment of 675 students. The school’s learning philosophy is based on the concept of growth mindset (Dweck 2017), supporting a view that students’ talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. The majority of learning spaces at this school have been traditional classrooms. The exception is a small 200 square metre classroom block that had recently been refurbished into a prototype ILE space: a dynamic new space intended to support teachers practice development in advance of transitioning into a large new Year 7 and 8 learning centre and whole school library designed around ILE concepts. The prototype space was able to be occupied by two or three classes of 25 students at the same time, offering a range of affordances for learning, such as would be incorporated into the Year 7 and 8 learning centre and library. Data collection was conducted over a series of six workshops and associated interviews, informed by a PAR cycle augmented with Co-Design workshops (figure 9).
Within each participating school, a specific research question positioned the focus of the research collaboration. The question asked at School A was: How can we prepare ourselves to use our proposed new learning spaces effectively? While the question asked at School B was: How can we enhance our use of our latest prototype learning space for student deep learning? These questions reflected the contexts of each school and how this might influence their ‘transition’ into new learning spaces. School A’s ILEs were yet to be built, while School B was in the early stages of occupying an ILE prototype within an existing building, created ahead of the final design and instruction of a much larger new building on the campus. The workshops shifted in focus and intent and developed as the outcomes of the workshops unfolded. Despite the workshops being designed and facilitated by the researchers, the issues explored were primarily determined by the teacher-participants. This became significant as we developed targeted workshops and made the best use of the affordances of creative collaboration.
2.2 Making Space: The Workshops
Chapter 2.2 presents an outline of how the workshops were designed and delivered. A substantive analysis of data from these workshops is provided in part 3, examining how data informs the emergence of practice-led ‘joining’ central to this doctoral study.
2.2.1 Workshop 1: Learning Principles
Workshop one engaged teacher-participants in discussions about the affordances of their learning spaces. A range of spatial qualities of learning spaces identified by Young, Cleveland, Imms (2019) was printed onto a transparency sheet. Teachers were asked to associate these spatial qualities with a selection of broadly adapted learning principles. Some examples of these learning principles include:
- Metacognition (thinking about how one thinks) is a key learning skill and mindset;
- Deep learning often happens when students are confused, struggle, and even fail;
- Collaborative learning with lots of student talk is an effective way to learn;
- Lessons should be designed to accommodate a range of learners; and
- Getting frequent feedback and ways to use it is important for student learning.
Teachers worked together to match spatial qualities with learning principles and were able to identify the spatial qualities that either enabled or constrained their practice in relation to selected principles. This first conversation with the teachers, and with the setting of the research, surfaced connections teachers made with their implicit motivation to teach (crafting effective learning) and the external setting of their teaching (spatial properties of learning environments). The workshop was also crucial in establishing the material affect of co-designing as an approach to making conversations. This was aimed at their own capacity to recognise and name their expertise (learning principles) and to connect this to language that was not perceived as intrinsic to their practice (spatial qualities).
Figure 10. Example of enabling and constraining factors of spatial qualities associated with learning principles, as identified by teachers
The regional workshops primed my sense of how teacher participants respond to prompts. We engage their language. This function must precede the formal qualities of designing appealing experiences. The look of the workshops—the surface—generates visual interest can go a long way in holding participant attention. But real shifts happen deep within the language that engages the participation.
Anyway—I feel this really worked in the first workshop. Teachers couldn’t stop discussing the learning principles. They became a successful catalyst for moving between what happens in ILE spaces, and what happens in pedagogy.
2.2.2 Workshop 2: Constellation of Practice
Workshop two introduced an approach to surfacing conversations with the teacher-participants that engaged a material-led framing through the metaphor of ‘constellation’. The regional workshops left an impression of the tools that co-design can typically use in order to create engagement through play. The use of metaphor, in particular, holds a powerful conceptual framing that can enable ways into difficult conversations that are typically inhibited by the weight of complexity. Metaphor is useful in this context to awaken participants to the moment. In the workshop, the metaphor acted to reveal to participants something in their current predicament or their experiences as a teacher that resonated with the metaphor. The metaphor brings associated thoughts to mind—there is something in the language or the emotional body of the metaphor that can trigger metonymic connections.
A constellation of suns and planets was the metaphor used as a vehicle to elicit participant reflection on the initiatives they had trialled arising from workshop two. Participants worked in small groups to make representations of the factors influencing their practice (see example in Figure 5). ‘Planets’ represented teachers’ practice, and a selection of playful materials were used to make representations of learning environment affordances in ‘orbit’ or these ‘planets’. Participants worked together to identify affordances that enabled practice, such as ‘space stations’ (a metonym for teacher planning/collaboration zones), and constraining affordances, such as ‘black holes’ (a metonym for students unable to cope with excessive noise). After discussing each groups ‘planet’ (practice) and ‘orbiting objects’ (affordances), participants were asked to link their planets to other groups’ ‘orbiting objects’ (affordances), to help identify additional affordances that might better support their own practice.
Figure 11. Images from Workshop 2 : teachers collaborate using playful materials, reflecting on initiatives explored following Workshop 1.
This time around I felt I could launch into some creative play. More materials and a metaphor to house the discussion framed the workshop. Teachers came with enthusiasm for the discussion as the previous two workshops had set up this more substantive conversation: what is going on in your ILE and where do you see it heading?
This led into workshop 4, which was a more literal translation of this conversation into a ‘floorplan’ of their current ILE alongside a projection that speculates on possible ILE use. How do these affordances manifest in practice? Workshop 4 felt quite literal. I wanted the teachers to have an opportunity to see a direct relationship between what we were doing, making ‘solar systems’ and what was happening/will be happening in their ILE. Not that I felt they couldn’t make the leap, more that we could dedicate the time together to seeing that applied—and they could have a conversation about it together in the time dedicated to this ‘professional development’.
2.2.3 Workshop 3: My Space
Workshop 3 encouraged teacher participants to draw spatial arrangements (or annotated floor plans) that best represents their changing practice. They were then asked to create another drawing that floated over this arrangement (again utilising the transparency film with markers) to represent their practice after changes had been made as a response to the previous workshops. What had been ‘activated’ for them?
They were asked to draw what they felt their practice was ‘becoming’. Stickers used to symbolise both the human and non-human actors impressing upon this practice scenario as they were encouraged to use these stickers and mark-making as an expression of their future practice.
Figure 12. Teachers presenting their ‘practice shifts’, showing ‘before’ and ‘becoming’ spatial arrangements
With hindsight, they could easily be doing this in their own time. What is my role here? The time together in a co-creative space needs to activate models of poetic expression that they can take with them to their own discussions. This again points toward the limits of what I’m able to do with participants. What is outside of my control? What is the value I bring to this ‘coming together’ and showing up with each other in the name of building a community of practice? I wonder if I will be able to see this in the data I retrieve from these encounters. I wonder.
This is the voice. This is the voice that is continuously coming into being. Becoming. I now sense this voice in the milky margins of my practice—becoming through the research. The more I engage in this research the further I locate myself in experimentation; looking for better questions to ask about designing with communities or practice. This isn’t unexpected. However, I feel a sense of bewilderment at how these concepts emerge before me in the stewing uncertainty this co-creation stirs.
2.2.4 Workshop 4: Field Guide
Workshop four focussed on priming participants to ‘perceive’ affordances of their old/existing learning spaces alongside their new ILEs. This workshop explored teacher perceptions associated with changes in practice that they believed would need to occur if they were going to teach effectively in the new learning spaces.
The workshop comprised three parts: From a range of characters (figure 13), participants selected avatars that reflected their current personal experience. On a topographical map, participants constructed interventions which described their sense of the current learning environment context and placed their avatars into that scene. Participants created field guides which they could use to observe issues or factors they had identified as important in the process of practice change. It was expected they would use these field guides (see example in figure 13) prior to the next workshop.
Figure 13. Workshop 4: Avatars, maps and an example field guide
2.2.5 Workshop 5: Making Space
Our final workshop focussed on encouraging conversations around what support structures might help them ‘actualise’ the affordances of their new ILE spaces. This involved teachers in three activities:
- Reflecting on observations of practice charge, as guided by the issues and factors outlined in their field guides;
- Synthesising practice change observations within an affordance ecology framework: infrastructure, practice and organisation;
- Exploring floor-plans of their future ILE spaces using the newly created Making SPACE tool to reflect on furniture, teachers and students in order to determine what protocols might be needed to work together effectively (figure 14).
Figure 14. Workshop 5: Example field guide, affordance ecology activity and Making Space activity.
It’s as if I’m becoming clearer about what my relationship with these teachers means to me as a designer. This is an unfamiliar mode of designing that responds to shifts in how I’m experiencing this ‘co-creation’.
I have never really felt like a ‘graphic designer’ or a ‘communication designer’ although I know in those design modes how the designing shifts the collaboration with the client/participant/whoever toward imagined possibilities. Design has always felt to me to be a kind of speculation. Perhaps that is personal. What design might be able to do is a constant source of sensing and imagining possibilities. As a designer, this speculating with others, outside of design, forms a sense of practice. This doesn’t happen within design; it happens without—
It develops as it unfolds. This is at the heart of designing.
2.3 Joining with Teachers
Chapter 2.3 segues into Part 3, alluding to a persistent theme in this doctoral study: designs capacity to engender learning through collaboration. Specifically, this chapter begins a discussion around how design might become a mode of transformative learning. This chapter teases out these themes prior to a more substantive look at how methods emerge from within an analysis of Making Space.
2.3.1 Learning as Collaboration
The collaborative methodology adopted in this research gave teacher-participants as co-researchers a framework to surface and explore a wide range of issues relevant to their practice context. When investigating the process of practice change in new school learning spaces, aspects of time and teacher agency came to be recognised as critically important. Reflecting on the research process, one teacher noted:
You can’t really fast track it because you’ve got to have time to go and put it into practice and try a few different times … and then see how it works and go and talk to somebody else and fiddle with what you’re doing and have another practice at it (School B).
The collaborative approach to methodology positioned teachers as researchers of their own practice and gave them agency in the way they investigated the use of space, empowering them in the process of change. Further, combining the PAR framework with co-design tools gave participants the freedom to explore and play, whilst ensuring some structure and direction was present to direct the research process towards addressing each school’s research question. A senior teacher at School B felt that the research process had enabled them to delve deeply into issues around practice change:
As teachers–and even as an executive–we sometimes jump to the product and we just want a framework or guidelines to tick a box. But this process really has been about experimentation and play and discovery for teachers which is really valuable (School A).
The school’s took up the co-design ‘tools’ used in many of the workshops to continue generating open-ended discussions and assisting teachers in recognising the potential of space as a learning resource. In describing the impact of the research on the teacher-participants as co-researchers, a senior teacher at School B, responsible for leading professional development, noted:
I think those workshops and the way that they ran took them (teachers) to the place that they needed to be. If I got up at a staff development, I don’t think they would have come to that realisation on their own. It would’ve been me telling them. But I feel like that journey … they came to that point on their own (School B).
From Teacher-as-Researcher to Designer-as-Researcher
What the teachers taught me is that my practice of designing, now situated in this site of collaborative research, needs to find its way of joining the world of transformation that co-design promotes. This prompts a process of learning from within the collaborative research.
These practice-led research encounters reveal how teachers could become comfortable in exploring their pedagogical approaches and working closely with colleagues. The methodology affirms how shifting teacher practice requires ongoing and situated effort, and that critical to empowering teachers to actualise the affordances of ILEs is providing them with the time and space to collectively develop their practice with each other—for this to occur concurrently and collaboratively. These insights were revealed to the researchers and the participants through a co-creative engagement at the site of inquiry.
But how can I make sense of the shifts occurring to my practice?
The results of the workshops produced swathes of data, presenting an opportunity to delve into data analysis. This opportunity afforded a meaningful methodological adjacency with PAR that builds towards an experimental research practice through design.
The collaboration revealed how I was joining my own practice as much as I was joining the teachers’ practice. It felt like a live prototype of emergent learning.
This occurred, I believe, because I was engaged in a research process through designing. I was researching my practice as a designer. I began to see how the surface of that exploration demanded methods that reflected the affective texture of co-designing to satisfy a meaningful engagement. Speak through the material language of design to better name it—
2.3.2 Prototyping Practice
In Making Space, prototyping practice with the teachers focused this doctoral study: how joining a speculative analytical framework might reveal design practice from within.
‘Making Space’ prototyped teacher practice through the material affect of co-designing. As co-researchers, teacher-participants were encouraged to trial and test the initiatives surfaced in workshops so they might embody the ideas directly in their practice. Participants recognised that the act of trialling new approaches was critical to becoming empowered in the process of change:
The biggest thing that’s come out … is trying to make us feel less uncertain and more empowered … to interrogate what we do, but not be afraid of trying new things. I feel much more empowered now having done the workshops than I did at the beginning. I think for me … the overall impact is to just try things. Have a go, you know. The girls aren’t going to no learn anything, and you’ve just got to … take that leap of faith (School B).
This resonates with the findings of Lackney (2008) who suggests that teachers are more likely to gain insights that support teaching and learning from direct experience and experimentation, as opposed to formal ‘professional training’. Our workshops prototyped spatio-pedagogical models that were then shared in a collective, collegial and reflective way.
The intent of a prototype was developed with the teachers as a form of design ‘mockup’. This mockup communicates back to the co-creators involved as they iterate and develop ideas—learning from the prototype and developing it—exploiting strengths, mitigating weaknesses. What happens if that object is alive in the practices, the moves that the practitioner makes in articulating the object of their craft?
A living prototype is a conversation with a state of becoming. It’s as if we see the object of practice as a designed prototype, always speculating on a future that develops as it unfolds. A living prototype looks for its formation, and in that seeking, meaningful relationships are created. This is not a prototype as a static point in the design process—it’s a fluid form that speaks to what is happening in and around practice.
We focus on the prototype as a model of possibilities. It might do this by revealing limitation or highlighting context and use. But if we’re prototyping practice, then the model is alive, embodied, and reflexive. It is alive in its participation with possibility.
2.3.3 Making Communities of Practice
Teachers reflected on the impact they felt the collaborative research created in giving them a sense of belonging to a community of practice that had engaged collective learning in a shared domain (Wenger 2015). In discussing the value of shared dialogue, one teacher noted:
Producing a product of what we were doing at the time didn’t really matter. It was the process of trying to think about what it would look like and spending time with somebody else talking it through, that really helped (Teacher, School A).
Generative discussions surfaced through the workshops revealed a shared teaching experience. This created insights into how other teachers approached teaching and learning in different environments. A teacher at School B reflected:
We kind of figured out what worked, what didn’t work and what kind of things do we enjoy doing: what are we comfortable within the classroom. You know, some of my boundaries are different to say Jodi’s (pseudonym). So things that she values and are important to her aren’t necessarily mine. So it’s about contextualising that use of space for different teachers and different personalities (Teacher, School B).
A recognition of the importance of participating in a community of practice was identified as critical in assisting teachers in developing and shaping new practices in ILEs. These insights into the teaching community highlighted the importance of a collective and collaborative approach to practice change and the need to generate a co-created vision for how ILEs could be activated.
The shifts teachers reported in their feedback is encouraging as results of how a PAR/Co-design might situate collaborative participant-led research. This feedback informs how I develop ‘joining’ into the third part of this thesis. To better understand how we join with others, I argue that co-design must look within—into how we join resultant data of co-design encounters. The following part inquires into this supposition. Joining data from ‘Making Space’ becomes a methodological inquiry into how co-design shifts with practice-led research.
The focus of my research has, from the outset, been about the teachers. I joined their conversations about how they engage with ILE’s, how they form a voice that reflects their experience of teaching in an ILE (or perhaps how they anticipate what it will be like for them). What I’m finding, as I move through my practice and engage with it as a researcher is that my questions that emerge direct me toward my practice as a fledgling co-designer, rather than theirs.
This is because I realise that I cannot effectively help these teachers, these practitioners unless I have I develop more holistic appreciation about my practice as a designer. Becoming with them in their practice questions was helpful. I have a sense that it helps. I can see it in their responses and general engagement. But the gap I identify is in my practice, rather than theirs. The site of my research inquiry has shifted as these questions emerge. I want this research to help co-designer practice, so it can then, in turn, be more useful in these kinds of circumstances where you join with others.
This shift has been in seeing how prototyping practice with teachers has led to how I prototype my own practice as a designer. Is design its own prototype as a method of social inquiry? We are finding models of practice in the way we relate design to other disciplinary areas. I’m finding my feet as a co-designer by working with the ‘other’. Understanding this ‘co-designing’ is forming as it’s researched. It develops as it unfolds. I’m beginning to join the research as a site of methodological inquiry.
After the teachers, I look toward my own practice as the object of this research.
Part 2 has outlined ‘Making Space’, Project Grounded Research within this doctoral study. This Part has detailed workshop activities, research design and practices, and how engaging with the participants assisted the shifts this research project has provoked thorugh practice. A burgeoning sense of ‘joining’ through collaboration at the site of this project begins to evolves through designerly modes as the research focus shifts towards making sense of co-designing. The following Part 3 will delve into a more substantive outline of methods emerging from data analysis unfolding after ‘Making Space’.