Social Design and Participatory Research: Transforming the Curriculum in Higher Education

Sónia Matos, Emma Gieben-gamal


In this contribution, we reflect on the pedagogical and theoretical underpinnings of an undergraduate course that we developed in the School of Design, Edinburgh College of Art. The course was designed to extend the learning opportunities for tackling societal challenges through the design curriculum as well as to overcome the still common divide between theoretical and studio courses in design education. Employing an integrative and reflexive approach to learning and teaching, our intention was to blend critical understanding and practice through a participatory approach to research. Therefore, we argue for the role of active engagement with communities as a means to transform and empower students' understanding of complex social challenges. Moreover, we explore the potential of active engagement to meet the challenge of delivering a curriculum that introduces students to a range of social issues in a theoretically informed way while also equipping them with the critical facilities to apply multidisciplinary approaches within design contexts.

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