Performative Design for Education
Undergraduate students can make significant contributions to a research agenda. This one-time course was part of a doctoral research program. Students were enlisted to design instructional print media for middle school science. In order to do so, they had to undergo a conceptual change—through readings, discussion, and exercises—as the research program concerns the employ of a conceptual framework for design.
Six students (4 seniors and 2 juniors) were invited to take part in this 3-credit course, set up as a “special topics” elective. Scheduling was somewhat variable, but tended towards a pair of 2-hour meetings each week.
Participating students:‣ Britt Cobb
‣ Rachael Huston
‣ Stephanie Jansen
‣ Kayce Lomas
‣ Carrie Misenheimer
‣ David Mitchell
Part 1 of the course was a seminar, lasting around 4 weeks. Select readings were assigned and discussed. Minor exercises and student presentations served to activate the material. Great care was taken to ensure that all readings were immediately useful for the task at hand. Students were “certified” in constitutive metaphor and creative memory, critical sections of my literature review that determine the conceptual framework of the research and course. A third seminar section, cognition to education, transitioned into the visual studies and activities of the remainder of the course.
Part 2 of the the course began the process of determining what science material to cover for the major work. This overlapped with part 3, a series of individualized projects, or tasks ★, designed to assist in the ultimate creation of instructional print media and take full advantage of each student’s particular strengths.
Stephanie’s task (right).
The heart of the course (part 4) was the design of instructional print media, made to fit the research agenda (produce measurable results) as well as standards for middle school science. We worked directly with Ada Lopez, a science teacher, to identify instructional goals and determine content coverage. The students visited the middle school and saw an 8th grade classroom in action.
Students created print media–based science comprehension exercises as learning episodes in two distinct (but related) lessons. Britt, David, Kayce and Rachael produced materials that connected cycles (water, hydrogen, etc.) usually isolated in the curriculum. Carrie and Stephanie produced materials related to oceanic environments and food webs. In each case, a given learning episode involved resource print material and prompts for engagement. The prompts took the form of questions and tasks, to be answered and completed by middle school students. The materials themselves are handouts, some booklets, folded down to 8½×11″.
Covers for the Cycles Sourcebook (Rachael w/ Britt), the Cycles as a System interactive diagram (Britt w/ Rachael), and Change Matters (Kayce w/ Rachael), another interactive diagram.
The Cycles Sourcebook (Rachael w/ Britt) serves as a resource for three paper-based exercises, including the Cycles as a System diagram (below, Britt w/ Rachael). The Sourcebook includes instruction on reading diagrams (left), to support less experienced students.
Both Cycles as a System (above) and Change Matters (below) combine water, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and nitrogren cycles in a holistic representation. Ada Lopez, the participating science teacher, promotes such integration, too often absent in textbooks. Both handouts present incomplete diagrams, that students must complete according to prompts.
Change Matters interior (Kayce), with two incomplete diagrams (a third is on the back panel).
Cycles Scenario (David). Similar to David’s task, this handout presents a changing landscape in successive past, present and future spreads. Again, students must identify causal agents.
Below is a selection of prompts for interaction for Carrie and Stephanie’s suite of ocean systems handouts. My students were not simply giving good form to set science material or making information more accessible. They were modeling reader interaction and learning through controlled steps. In this way, the course was unequivocally an interaction course, aimed at deep conceptual understanding and strategy.
Prompts for Oceanic Environments and Oceanic Food Webs (Carrie and Stephanie).
Coursework designed and implemented
by instructor Matthew Peterson
at NC State University
for his “Performative Design for Education” elective
as a group of invited independent studies