In the company of designers
Holschuh, Douglas Raymond
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In the fall of 2004, Sonic Design, a student team of instructional and multimedia designers in the Masters Studio of the Instructional Technology Department at the University of Georgia, participated in a study to get a better understanding of how design was being done in a student-centered design-studio learning environment. This study examined how the Studio fits into a community-of-practice framework, how the students designing was affected by the design of the course, and how the students constructed their identities within the Studio culture. The following questions guided this research: (a) How do theories of communities of practice explicate the way students engage in and negotiate design of an authentic design project within a team-based context? (b) How is the way in which students conduct design within a team-based context influenced by the design-studio model? (c) How do students come to identify themselves as members of the culture of designers in the design team, in the Studio, and in the larger cultures of instructional and multimedia designers? Where and how is value assigned within this culture? To answer these questions, an ethnographic study was conducted with the researcher observing a three-person design team in the last course in the Studio sequence. This design team was responsible for securing a client and designing and developing computer-based instructional modules in consultation with the client. The team that was studied, the Sonic Design team, created three modules to help grade-school students with moderate to profound intellectual disabilities learn about money, dressing for the weather, and finding services in their local community. Based on a semesters worth of observations, interviews, and artifact collection, the study discussed several findings related to the research questions, including how designed and emergent forms of community creation influenced the Studio, how peer masters functioned as instructors for newer students, and how students identified as designers, developers, teachers, and IT professionals. Finally, the study presented implications for future implementation of the Studio model, including increasing rigor through instructor-led design critiques and fostering the role of peer masters. Additional implications for future research included implementing some of the teaching changes in a design-research study and conducting more research on Studio students once they leave the program for occupations in the field.
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