I began my road to IST over ten years ago, early in my design education. While my coursework was focused on the practical, craft-based knowledge of commercial visual design, I became interested in the learning potential for the materials I was tasked with creating. After starting my master’s degree in graphic design at Savannah College of Art & Design, this interest grew, with new vocabulary to explain the interpretive processes and structures that I was interacting with in my design through the lenses of visual semiotics and art criticism. This new perspective was grounded with special interest in prescriptive design principles, particularly from the perspective of the Bauhaus and De Stijl schools of design and philosophy. During this time, I created a web site for the Civil Rights Museum in Savannah, Georgia as part of a team project, and this experience allowed me even more direct access to develop materials and content for goals that could ultimately be termed “education.” From a theoretical perspective, I began to view all of design within this same conceptual framework, with the designer and viewer “communicating” through the medium of the design artifact, with my goal as a designer being the optimization of messaging and the creation of a pleasant interaction with the artifact.
After moving back to Greenville, South Carolina, I worked as a trainer for a chain of coffee shops, which also stimulated these same feelings toward education, with my focus shifting to experiential factors in the training process. This included training employees with factual and process knowledge, as well as a deeper brand and content experience that formed their role as a barista and coffee expert. During this time, I was involved in the design and development of web sites with increasing complexity, which made my interests in interaction design and educative aspects of design even more valuable to my clients. This explains, in large part, why I chose Educational Technology as my second master’s discipline, with the goal of increasing my competence in learning and education factors that influence the design process. Ultimately, my goal for this fusion of graphic design with educational technology was creating pleasant experiences and increasing the efficiency of the learning process.
During my formal design education, I had the opportunity to experience a variety of pedagogical approaches over a wide range of design subject matter, including studio art, graphic design, information architecture, web design, instructional design, and human-computer interaction design. During these experiences, I was directly confronted with the “swamp” of “messy, confusing problems [that] defy technical solution” (Schön, 1987, p.3), and as a student, I was often aware of my precarious position, often leaning towards utter failure. Frequently, my design professors, despite possessing great skill as design practitioners, had difficulty empathizing with or understanding the challenges of a “novice” designer. As I reflect on these experiences, I recognize many positive aspects of the various instances of design pedagogy that I experienced, but also many challenges and opportunities for improvement. Because design disciplines are often sustained by professors who are accomplished practitioners, the specific role of the pedagogy, and the responsibilities and experience of the student in that pedagogy, has frequently been left unaddressed or has been assumed to be valid based on a positive end result (successful practicing designers). Based on these experiences, my research focus includes exploring the role and experience of the student within the design pedagogy, which may result in a greater understanding of the challenges design students confront as they move from beginning designer to expert practitioner.
My ultimate goal is to conduct research in the field of design pedagogy, leading to a greater understanding of the role of the pedagogical and experiential factors that affect the transformation of design students, which in turn may improve the effectiveness and appropriateness of future iterations of design education. In order to achieve these goals, I plan to pursue the role of a professor-designer, including: a tenure-track faculty position at a Carnegie-level research intensive university, and ongoing experience as a practitioner-designer. I believe that the practitioner-designer lens brings current and continuing value to my research perspective, and serves to inform my planned role as a a tenure-track faculty member. In the study of design pedagogy, the perspectives of researchers and practitioners are equally valuable, in both the dissimilarity of research and practitioner processes, and in the reappropriation of research methods from the educational to business context. As design contexts continue to evolve due to technology and other societal factors, attention to these trends through the dual lens of professor and designer will serve to support a proactive, contextually appropriate design pedagogy while considering the practitioner that results from that pedagogy.
In this statement, I detail the competencies I have addressed in order to proactively pursue a faculty position at an intensive research university within the categories of scholarship, teaching, and service, including indicators that document my progress towards acquiring these competencies.
Since beginning my doctoral program, I have been involved continuously in Professor Elizabeth Boling’s Design Research group, which has fueled both my growing aptitude in the selection and application of research methods, logistical processes for obtaining IRB approval and executing a study, undertaking research in a group, drafting of research proposals, planning and executing academic presentations, and drafting manuscripts for publication. I have grown increasingly comfortable with the language and goals of design research, as set out by Nigel Cross (2001), and my understanding of design pedagogy and the unique attributes of studio-based education have been influenced by Schön (1983) and Shulman (2005).
My previous educational experiences in design inform my research interests, specifically in my focus on design pedagogy as the context for my research activities. Within this context, I have chosen to focus on the role of the individual, developing student-designer, which is critical to the success of the overall pedagogy, and not well understood. My research path to this point attempts to address a starting point for engaging with this issue. My first major literature review, Design Pedagogy in Practice: Barriers to Learning and Evaluation in the Design Studio, was a synthesis of the current state of the literature including factors that are found to affect the educational development of a graduate design student. Identified categories of factors include environmental, social, and formative barriers that emerge from the pedagogy, the learning environment, or the personal experience of the design student.
I identified a number of gaps in the research literature in the process of completing this literature review, which pointed to the role of the individual design student and the importance of understanding the role of personal experience. This student perspective—finding the student “voice”—is often neglected in the design pedagogy literature, with few exceptions (Anthony, 1991; Willenbrock, 1991). Factors identified from the perspective of the design student were reported in the manuscript Personal and Pedagogical Factors That Shape Design Thinking, which has been submitted for publication. Additional perspectives on the same data set, overlaying the role of sociocultural and cognitive theories in the development of design thinking are being addressed in a separate manuscript, currently under development. These factors may be seen as threshold concepts (Meyer & Land, 2003), or concepts or patterns of thinking that must be achieved for the learner to progress in their understanding or knowledge. This concept of “thresholds” allows for a more fine-grained analysis of student behaviors and feelings about design, leading to pedagogical or personal thresholds, thus building on previous work (Siegel & Stolterman, 2008) in the field of design with a larger pedagogical framework. This form of analysis, viewing factors or groupings of factors as defined pedagogical or experiential thresholds, is a potential outcome of this line of research.
In the fall of 2011, I began working as a researcher on an NSF grant led by Dr. Erik Stolterman and Dr. Marty Siegel in the School of Informatics, entitled Design Methods: How They are Understood, Selected, and Used by Practitioners. This grant extends over three years, and the research team is currently studying how practitioners use design methods in the act of designing, the connections between design methods in research/theory and practice, and the disseminating agents for methods and method use in academic research, design pedagogy, and practice. This grant has offered me excellent opportunities to undertake research in an area directly related to my interests in the interaction of design pedagogy and practice with a team of experienced design researchers, especially in the particulars of methods use and the linking of research and practice. In addition to this research on design practice, my work as a researcher in Professor Elizabeth Boling’s Design Research group is now focusing on instructional design practitioners, which will continue to immerse me in this line of research—linking research and practice—as well as informing my independent research.
Additionally, I have completed the evaluation of two substantial qualitative data sets, which inform a number of conference presentations and potential publications. The first set, referenced above, recognizes the role of pedagogical and personal factors in the development of design thinking. One manuscript is complete and has been submitted for publication (pdf), and another is in late stages of analysis. A portion of the second data set was collected in partial fulfillment of Y613, evaluating the role of informal peer critique in the context of a design studio. This analysis resulted in two manuscripts that evaluate the discursive structures of informal peer critique and the role of critique in verbalizing design decision making and thinking. Two concurrent session proposals were accepted and presented at the 2012 AECT International Convention. One of the papers on the structures of peer critique was accepted to the 2013 Design Research Society conference. In addition to this individual research, I have also finalized a first-authored manuscript with Erik Stolterman and Marty Siegel as part of the NSF Grant, titled Trickle-Down and Bubble-Up: Relationships Between HCI Theory and Practice, which is currently under review for the Nordes 2013 conference. A full listing of manuscripts in process can be viewed on my current projects page.
My experiences in the area of teaching have been primarily in the realm of one-on-one job training and mentoring. While these experiences were satisfying, teaching in an online modality has extended my experience in a more formal way, and has enhanced my ability to communicate without the benefit of face-to-face contact, and has also served as a challenge to present content and provide helpful feedback in a less time-delimited format, encouraging each student to meet their individual potential. In this way, my experience in online education has been similar to my job training experience, where I can provide individual attention and shape individual experiences to meet personal or professional goals.
Prior to coming to Indiana University, my formal face-to-face teaching opportunities were limited. Because I know that this type of teaching is critical to the attainment of my future goals as a professor, I am continually working to increase this area of my dossier to include a wider variety of courses and a range of classroom responsibilities. I have worked in two classroom contexts at IU: R341, a lecture and lab course covering multimedia in instructional design, and I541, an introductory design course in human-computer interaction design (HCI/d). My role in R341 during the Fall 2011 semester combined elements of a lecture and self-driven classroom environment, and I had the opportunity to work one-on-one and with groups, while still being involved in lecture components involving the entire class. My role in I541 (in the Fall 2011 and Fall 2012 semesters) is indicative of my interests in design education, with lecture and mentorship components serving parallel goals to transform a beginning designer to a professional design practitioner. Opportunities in this setting include more strategic involvement in group work, which occurs outside of the traditional class time, including the shaping of student’s design thinking and process through Socratic questioning, and the application of standard HCI methods in a practical, project-based context. Additionally, involvement in the grading process in both courses has sharpened my ability to provide meaningful formative feedback—guiding, but not telling the students how to proceed.
I have a long history of using my professional skills in a service context, including the design and development of multiple interactive and print materials for community and religious groups. My transition to a full-time academic setting has merely changed the context in which I can utilize my professional skills. I have attempted to choose projects that are both beneficial to the targeted participants or groups, and hold value in my areas of research interest and practice. Professionally, these efforts range from simple logo development for the AECT Graduate Student Assembly to full-scale campaign development, including the production of print materials for the 2011 and 2012 IST Conferences.
I have served as a reviewer for the International Journal of Designs for Learning (IJDL) since Summer 2011, and have also reviewed for the IST Conference (2012-2013), AECT International Convention (2012-2013), and Nordes Conference (2013). These commitments mark a transition in my service commitments, including involving myself in service responsibilities that more directly inform my research and practice. In continuation of this theme, I was elected as the 2012 AECT GSA Design & Development Board Representative, and have had numerous opportunities to improve networking and educational opportunities through that role. I am currently pursuing a Board Associate position within the AECT Design & Development board to continue my national service.
Primary Focus Area
My primary focus area is design pedagogy, including issues relating to the experience of design students in the pedagogically-mediated transformation from beginning designer to professional design practitioner (Cross, 2011; Siegel & Stolterman, 2008). Although numerous scholars have studied design education within a variety of educational levels and design contexts, the student “voice” is often constrained or lost due to the research focus or methodologies used. My research focus, therefore, assumes the standpoint of the student in the design pedagogy experience, investigating factors that include: 1) the student’s understanding of design pedagogy as it relates to future practice; 2) the student’s understanding of or use of design methods; 3) social and cultural factors affecting the student’s acquisition of design skills; and 4) the student’s ability to verbalize design judgment through method use. A related area of focus and development, especially in relationship to the use of design methods, is the designer’s use of precedent or episodic memory to guide or inform their design process (Boling, 2010; Lawson, 2004; Visser, 1995).
I have supported this research focus through my activities in a range of research groups. I have sought to consider broad concepts of design education and practice through my associations with Professor Boling in IST and Dr. Erik Stolterman and Dr. Marty Siegel in HCI/d. I have simultaneously worked to achieve depth of understanding in the particulars of knowledge claims and how students come to reason and judge in the educational process through my work with Dr. Ted Frick. These research activities have clearly shaped my own independent research activities, in the context of design (HCI/d), in the role of methods use in the act of design (NSF Methods group with Siegel & Stolterman), through foundational concepts in design and design pedagogy (Design Research group with Boling), and a deep investigation into verbalization of design reasoning and judgment (IDCL group with Frick).
Based on my career goals in the research of design pedagogy and related professional practice, I project the need for a variety of competencies relating to research, teaching, and service. The following section summarizes these competencies, along with my current progress in attaining each goal.
- Synthesize related literature and locate gaps for potential research
- completedI have completed two major literature reviews and have identified my focus area of research based on identified gaps in the literature.
- Utilize research methods in appropriate contexts
- completedI have collected data in multiple contexts, utilizing both qualitative and quantitative methods. This includes the discussion and application of a variety of research methods in research groups, coursework, and in independent research studies. I have executed two independent research studies in Fall 2011 and Spring 2012, including intensive interview and observation methods.
- Understand appropriate methods of inquiry in studying design
- completed I have taken Dr. Phil Carspecken’s Qualitative Inquiry in Education course sequence(Y612/Y613), which has greatly strengthened my skills in qualitative inquiry methodology. In addition, I am working on an NSF grant with Dr. Marty Siegel and Dr. Erik Stolterman, two established design researchers on a multi-year project. I conducted and served as scribe for numerous interviews, and led segments of the data analysis process.
- Write research proposals; design and execute research studies
- completed In conjunction with my goal to appropriately synthesize research literature and identify research gaps, I have written two research proposals, sought and received IRB approval, and collected data for both independent research studies, one of which has been submitted for publication as my first-authored empirical study.
- Develop scholarly writing and presentation skills
- completed I have previously written a formal article critique for R690, further developing my scholarly writing abilities. I have also been actively involved in leading a research presentation at the 2011 IST Conference, assisting in presenting two sessions at the 2011 AECT International Convention, leading a research presentation at the 2012 IST Conference, and planning to present two first-authored concurrent sessions at the 2012 AECT International Convention.
- Acquire content knowledge in subjects I intend to teach
- ongoing I have completed coursework in the fields of graphic design, web design and development, instructional design, human-computer interaction design, visual semiotics, art criticism, educational foundations, and research methodology. I took a course in design theory, as planned in my program of study, and have previously completed coursework in inquiry methodology.
- Teach and mentor students in a face-to-face environment
- ongoing I identified opportunities to teach and mentor in a face-to-face environment during the Fall 2011 and Fall 2012 semesters, and plan to continue to identify opportunities to assist in classroom activities. I mentored students in I541 Interaction Design Practice during the Fall 2011 semester, and am currently mentoring students in the same course in the Fall 2012 semester. I also served as a lab assistant with an occasional formal teaching role in R341 Multimedia in Instructional Technology during the Fall 2011 semester.
- Teach students in an online environment
- ongoing I have taught online courses for University of Phoenix for over three years, including over 23 sections of two advanced undergraduate courses. Responsibilities include regular communication with students, participation in forum activities, employing a Socratic style of questioning to further student discussion and engagement, assigning and grading student projects and papers, fostering collaboration within learning groups, and extending the curriculum to bring current readings and technology issues into the classroom.
- Design and develop course components
- completed I have developed a variety of supportive course components in my previous role at Think Up Consulting. I have also created job aids for R341 that support the primary classroom instruction.
- Review scholarly work
- ongoing I am currently serving as a reviewer for the International Journal of Designs for Learning. I have also reviewed for the IST Conference (2012-2013), AECT International Convention (2012-2013), and Nordes Conference (2013).
- Become an active member of academic organizations
- ongoing I have maintained active membership with ACM, AERA, and AECT. I also volunteered at the 2011 AECT Convention in Jacksonville, Florida.
- Support academic organizations or courses through design/development work
- completed I have supported a variety of courses, academic organizations, and events through graphic design and web development work. These include the 2011 and 2012 IST Conferences, AECT Graduate Student Assembly, IJDL, F401, and IDCL.
- Assume a leadership role in an organization
- ongoing I was elected as the AECT GSA Design & Development Board Representative for 2012. I am currently pursuing a Board Associate position with the AECT Design & Development Board.
- Volunteer on behalf of community organizations
- completed I have served as a judge for the annual Martin Luther King Design Competition, and currently serve as a board member for a group that promotes advocacy and support for LGBT individuals.
Breadth and Integration
My research, teaching, and service converge on the application of design thinking in higher education and practitioner development settings. While the potential scope of research in this area is broad, my interests—seen as a cross-section of design thinking in human-computer interaction, graphic design, and instructional design—integrate both my practical experience as a professional designer and my interests and pursuits in an academic and research context.
My focus is strongly integrated across the IST and HCI fields, with significant connections to the larger design research community. This research indicates two primary areas of further study and application within the IST community: 1) the role of design thinking and judgment (including opportunistic use of tools and precedent based on design judgment) in the instructional design process and 2) the role of the design studio pedagogy as a primary method of educating designers in higher education. In the past decade, instructional design has been recast as a design discipline (Boling & Smith, 2012; Smith & Boling, 2009), and the education of instructional designers has increasingly incorporated the studio model of education (Boling & Smith, 2010; Clinton & Rieber, 2010). While these modes of instruction and thinking have been successful in more “traditional” design fields, many aspects of the transformation from beginning design student to professional design practitioner are unclear, particularly from the student perspective. To accurately move the design studio model of education into new design contexts, a more complete picture of the factors—pedagogical, experiential, social, cultural—is vital.
Throughout my educational background, I have experienced a variety of approaches to design education, and all of these experiences inform my view of instructional design, including the role of the designer. My view of the designer has shifted from a limited, aesthetic view in my undergraduate training, to an inclusive and strategic view informed by my graduate coursework, including courses in HCI taken during my time at Indiana University. This view of the designer informs my passion to improve the understanding of the role of design pedagogy, with the ultimate goal of bringing about changes in design thinking in students and practitioners. I believe that my experience both in academic and professional settings ideally suits this research path, and I am personally motivated to bring about this change to improve future design education.