Theory and Practice

Much of the dialogue encountered to date sits within either practice or theory. Theorists talk about design, designing and the designed but don’t appear to use design. And, practitioners focus on the act of creating rather than documenting, understanding, or recording what they are doing. This research seeks to bridge the chasm between design theory and practice by adopting a bilingual (written and visual) approach to the research.


Design Tensions

Actual Process----------------------Designed Process


‘The planet does not need more ‘successful people’. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers and lovers of all kinds. It needs people to live well in their places. It needs people with moral courage willing to join the struggle to make the world habitable and humane and these qualities have little to do with success as our culture is the set.’

David Orr, Ecological Literacy: Educating Our Children for a Sustainable World.

Audio Field Sequence 23/10/19

I imagine the page as a piece of music and the graphic elements as notes that create the tune. I know very little about music but conceptualising the page as sound brings the static to life.

When a layout isn’t working, I use this metaphor because it requires me to reconsider how the design principles and elements are used. I transfer this technique to other forms of design such as publication, interaction, exhibition and spatial design. Flow, rhythm and pace are fundamental to these areas of design, but they seem equally relevant in a learning context.

Experimenting with pace, intensity and styles of learning are fundamental to my teaching practice. However, I am curious to learn more about how these variables influence learning.

Figure 1.
The visual representation of audio from a WonderLab playdate. I don’t expect much to emerge from looking at just one instance; however, I am curious to see if patterns, relationships, correlations emerge over time. I wonder….

When are we loud and when are we quiet?
When do we go slow and when do we speed up?
Where is the contrast?
What is the hierarchy?
What is the relationship between white space and silence?
What if a lesson plan was visual?

Designing a research practice

Designing multi-modal learning experiences
Through visualisation, what can we learn about  multi-modal communication in pedagogy?

The research looks to build an understanding of multi-modal communication in practice by developing an accessible visual language that can replace or supplement speech and writing in teaching practice. The language will create a visual record of one’s current pedagogical practice, helping to provide perspective on the delivery modes. The documented visual scenarios provide one with the possibility to objectively review and reshape their practice through making.  The formal visual language will be future-thinking and use digital technology to move beyond the static nature of current ideographic languages.

The study seeks to deliberately adopt alternative ways of conducting, publishing and valuing research by moving beyond the text-centric approach common to academia. It appeals to my interest in subordinate ways of knowing by focusing on non-discursive processing. Additionally, the study seeks to develop inclusive learning experiences that speak to varied personalities and learning style preferences. 

I hope a design research lens will reveal blind spots in practice and help develop facilitator/learner competency in multi-modal communication. Insights from the research should help facilitators integrate different modes of communication more meaningfully into the curricular and their practice. Additionally, the knowledge gained reinforces the urgency to form multi-literacy collaborative partnerships that can communicate across a spectrum of channels.

The research will be practice-led and multi-method. Data will be expressed non-numerically and represented in forms other than words — this may include ideographic writing systems, data visualisation, animations, digital interactions and live action etc. (B. Haseman, 2006). The practice-led process will use design thinking methods and visual communication to disseminate research that is both accessible and engaging for communities beyond and within academia (Conquergood, 2002). 

The investigation will be rooted in design pedagogy; however, the knowledge generated will be transferrable to other disciplines and professional practice.

Patterns & Collaboration

What might I notice if I were to visually track the moves I make as a participant and facilitator in a collaborative process? Would a pattern emerge? How might this visual representation help me to better understand my practice and the practice of others?

Collaborative Teams

How do we come together and break apart to form collaborative teams?  Is it the role of the facilitator or the participants to decide on the number of participants a team? Or, should/do these decisions emerge through conversation and negotiation between participants and facilitators?


Two research topics run in tandem, and I see value in playing with both.

It is fraught with uncertainty and runs against the grain.

Immerse yourself in unknown, and trust something will emerge.

Let me stay with the murky, and avoid the lure of clarity.