Towards a technological university: A design approach to knowledge creation
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Irish economic strategies, in line with broader global strategies, aim to promote innovation and knowledge creation. The past notion that knowledge was a learned entity which stopped and was repeated as needed no longer fits. It is considered that in order to develop innovative fluid thinking and new knowledge creation, the focus shifts from the actual knowledge to the competencies and skills that the practice and application of the knowledge brings. In direct response to this, the Irish Higher Education system is witnessing a period of transition. As part of this transition, some of the Institutes of Technology (IOTs) will merge to become Technological Universities (TUs). The TU focus will extend beyond teaching and learning towards innovation and knowledge creation. The Irish design education sector is innovation focussed and is based on a tradition of practice oriented learning. This thesis aims to position the role of practice oriented learning in the context of innovation and knowledge creation within Irish design education. The approach may now be of value as a process in knowledge creation in other disciplines, as they transition to the emergent Irish TU model. In order to achieve this the overall research area was refined and broken down into the following research questions: 1. What is the strategy behind the focus on knowledge creation and innovation within the transitioning higher education system? 2. How is knowledge created within design education? 3. What role does practice oriented learning play in achieving knowledge creation? 4. How can the value of practice oriented learning benefit an emerging TU culture? Design research is based upon the ability to identify and implement the most appropriate approach to data collection and the analysis of collected material. The ‘research through design’ approach was the selected methodology for the project. Research through design presumes an interpretative understanding of the material or data being collected. It works when there is an openness and readiness to engage in new or surprising situations in the course of research. This methodology has a focus on synthesising information to form creative insights. The approach was selected as it does not pursue verification or falsification, but rather an interactive interpretative dialogue with the design situation (Frayling, 1993). This is appropriate when the research seeks to uncover strategy as opposed to gathering facts or data, we seek instead to make meaning of the data. One approach to synthesising information involves deep interaction with the data through visual mapping. This approach was selected on the basis that visual mapping would provide a means to deal with the complexity of considering three key areas of research namely; policy, industry and education. The visual mapping enables us to see how and when policy, industry and education interact to arrive at today’s strategy for the emerging TU’s. This involves decision making throughout the project based on analysis and findings to provide direction. Whilst this method provides a clear rationale for the project direction there is still an amount of subjective interpretation. In order to provide further rigour to this method, a pragmatic approach was taken to test findings through field research using interviews, observations and workshops. In addition to this, peer review and publications were carried out throughout the project. The peer reviews acted as a test bed for the latest thinking in this research area from an international context. The findings to date indicate the strategy behind the transitioning Irish Higher education system is to promote knowledge creation as opposed to the traditional knowledge consumption. This is being driven by economic demands in response to the global shift from production based economy to knowledge based economy. The economic demands are both national and International and strive for innovation through knowledge creation. The thesis defines knowledge creation within design education as a specific process of tacit and explicit knowledge exchanges that occur within a shared space or context. Tacit knowledge is explored as informal knowledge based on experiences, insights and intuition. The findings show that tacit knowledge is produced through practice oriented learning approach used in Irish design education. This approach, used by design may be of value to other disciplines as existing structures transition towards the emerging model of TU with the aim of promoting knowledge creation.
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