The following abstract on action research in design education covers a conference paper that was to have been presented at the recent ISSOTL conference in 2015. Unfortunately, neither Andrew nor I found ourselves there, for a number of unfortunate circumstances, so watch out for this paper in a journal soon!

Disruption and Change – Introduction of blended learning in the studio space

Authors: Karin Oerlemans and Andrew MacKenzie

University of Canberra

University programs are under pressure to adopt blended learning technologies into design education studios, almost exclusively taught in face-to-face modes in Australia. The implications of the increased use of blended learning include new methodologies, time pressures, and changing student and staff expectations. Similarly, the digital creep in technologies extends – not just for digitising drawings and project work-but also for instructions, marking, feedback, and quality compliance. In this paper we explore the use of technologies in the studio space, the use of digital tablets and touch screen technology, and the use of online rubrics within a learning management system to give students feedback.

Research suggests feedback is the most powerful method of engaging with students, and can be used to improve learning (Hattie and Timperley 2007, Hattie 2009). But other research seemingly contradicts this finding and states that students actually seldom access their feedback and learn very little from it for a number of reasons. These included a lack of understanding, relying on their memory of what was said, and because they are more focussed on their grades then on the feedback (Carless 2006; Higgins 2000; Weaver 2006). More recent research by Blair and associates (2012) suggests that immediacy of feedback in written form, timely and accessible, and using a wider range of feedback mechanisms would enhance the student learning experience.

Using an action research approach (Stringer, 2013), the paper describes a small pilot study conducted in first year design studio, conducted in 2014, the pre-curser of a larger whole cohort study in 2015 that will include all design studios on the use of online rubrics for feedback and e-portfolios as an assessment tool. For the pilot study we collected information on students’ access to their e-portfolios, their feedback and their final grades from the LMS to discover if the use of the online rubrics had an effect on student’s final results. We then also surveyed the students and asked them to report on their behaviour for using feedback and whether they felt it changed their submissions. Finally, we interviewed studio teaching staff, and sought their views on the use of technology to give feedback, rather than relying on more traditional methods. And we asked, what affect did they belief the use of the technology have on their practice in the studio space and their engagement with students.

Outcomes showed that the level of access and views of feedback online declined over the semester, and students indicated in the survey that they valued face-to-face feedback in the studio environment. Yet, despite this, a correlation analysis of the views of feedback with the final results showed that those students who accessed and viewed their feedback online over the semester achieved a better outcome for the final assessment. Whilst a critical reflection on the findings from tutor comments showed a need for them to be more intentional in instructing students of the value of online feedback to improve their practice in studio.

Findings from the pilot are being used to inform changing practice in other studio units. The opportunity exists for ISSOTL conference participants to offer feedback on the generalisability of the findings in design education. The larger research project will continue to explore these findings and further refine the use of technology and online feedback in studio assessment and will be reported in future papers.

ISSOTL 2015 Conference Paper

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