Rebecca Roe, Azusa Pacific University

For this study, I will be asking design students to reflect on their learning process and the impact of digital media. Upper-division design students who attend Azusa Pacific University, Azusa, CA will be the focus participants. While the researcher knows most of the students, other design professors will also be included. The goal of the study is to identify moments in creative processing when design students are able to discern they have attained new knowledge about design. The process will include interaction with reflective practitioner/instructors who enable this awareness.

Dan Schön’s book, The Reflective Practitioner, remains a key reference for describing that knowing and doing can happen simultaneously. He suggests knowledge is created when student work is evaluated and discussed with a design practitioner/instructor; and adjustments are made leading to further evaluation and knowledge production. This kind of knowledge creation is different from both the traditional positivist approach (quantitative) as well as the more contemporary approaches that value subjective meaningfulness or qualitative analysis. Otto and Smith use “the term style of knowing to indicate that the production of knowledge involves more than thinking and reasoning; it also comprises practices of acting on the world that generate specific forms of knowledge.”[1]

This study will apply a phenomenological method for describing meaning for several individuals of lived experiences of a concept,[2] in this case, students reflecting on their learning process. This research method commonly uses interviews along with additional documents, observations, and art as forms of data collection.[3] I will use semi-structured interview questions and journal keeping. The journal will focus on students’ thoughtful awareness of design knowledge attained and applied, and the influence of learning via digital media. As well, I plan to be a participant observer during some of the class sessions and engage other professors in conversation. It is anticipated that design-centered learning, or learning by doing, is an effective way to learn in arts environments and that the learning action between student and instructor, produces and enhances actual knowledge production.


[1] Ton Otto and Rachel Charlotte Smith. “Design Anthropology: A Distinct Style of Knowing” in Design Anthropology: Theory and Practice, ed. Wendy Gunn, Ton Otto, and Rachel Charlotte Smith, 11; authors’ italics.

[2] John W. Creswell, Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 2005) 57.

[3] Creswell, Qualitative inquiry and research design, 79.


Rebecca Roe grew up in southern California where she began her career as a designer, working for non-profits and educational institutions. She began teaching in the mid 1990s: first as a part-time lecturer and now as an associate professor at Azusa Pacific University. As an educator, her goal is to help students shape their identity in ways that anticipate their role becoming professional designers.