The Learning History: A Methodology for Design Research

By Barbara McFall, Cindy Beacham, Kathryn Burton and Anna Phoenix.

Published by The International Journal of Design Education

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Design research is a relatively young and often misunderstood tradition within academic research circles. Design, by definition, addresses the formation and evolution of products, experiences and systems to improve the quality of life. Successful design must consider the implications for both user and outcome at each stage of the design process. As with all “wicked” human problems (Rittel and Webber 1973), where users are human this relationship is both complex and dynamic. Decisions made at each iteration result in changes large and small. Where multiple users are involved there are few constants and infinite variables. What methodology might be employed to achieve credible and useful research results in such situations? Faced with a project that involved investigation of design process in the setting of historic preservation and restoration in a community setting, the authors elected to use the Learning History Methodology (Kleiner and Roth 1997). This paper discusses the Learning History Methodology, and its contributions to the growing field of design research.

Keywords: Learning History, User-centered Design, Wicked Problems, Design Research, Design Methodology, Preservation, Restoration

The International Journal of Design Education, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp.67-73. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 470.471KB).

Dr. Barbara McFall

Director, Division of Design and Merchandising, West Virginia University, Morgantown, USA

Barbara McFall holds a Ph.D. in human science-organizational systems and is director of the Division of Design and Merchandising at West Virginia University.

Dr. Cindy Beacham

Associate Professor and Academic Coordinator, Design and Merchandising, Division of Design and Merchandising, West Virginia University, Morgantown, USA

I worked as a corporate designer, construction manager, and project manager prior to my work in academia. I have been teaching at the college level for over 18 years, and my teaching areas include design thinking, design theory and concepts, contract design, and evidence-based design. My research interests include design pedagogy, design thinking, and developmentally appropriate design for children. I am also a co-author of a textbook on interior design professional practices.

Dr. Kathryn Burton

Assistant Professor, Division of Design and Merchandising, West Virginia University, Morgantown, USA

Kathryn Burton has a Ph.D. in historic and cultural aspects of the near environment. She is an assistant professor teaching design foundations, design history, and residential design courses to students in Interior Design and Design Studies. Her research interests include gothic revival church architecture and design pedagogy.

Anna Phoenix

West Virginia University, USA