Pedagogy, design and aspiring to co-creation

[This is a thinking-out-loud piece. No answers, just exploring.]

Dr. Shirin Vossoughi, Associate Professor of Learning Sciences at the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University, shared her work on inclusive teaching at a recent faculty meeting for instructors in the Master’s Program in Learning and Organizational Change.

The session led me to have one of those moments where different disciplines in which I participate, to some degree, have something important to say about co-creation (both its underlying value and how to achieve it). Here’s what I mean by the different disciplines in which I participate and the theme of co-creation:

  • As someone who continues to explore the methods and practices and mindsets of design, “co-creation” is “designing with, not for.” Or from the perspective of those people who are impacted by what we design “nothing about us, without us.”
  • As a practitioner who has created/continues to work on hybrid/online collaboration and knowledge sharing spaces, co-creation is a shared sense of community that also values the dynamic, emergent properties afforded by these spaces.
  • As a teacher/educator, co-creation means inviting students into a safe space to learn together, with you.

Dr. Vossoughi’s session came at this topic by putting pedagogy and teaching in the foreground, but it was informed, also (my sense) by underlying values of participatory design. I need to dig into Dr. Vissoughi’s work (along with several SESP peers) a bit more on this; but I certainly pick up some sensibilities here that seem to emerge from participatory design.

Either way, here are three key themes Dr. Vossoughi shared on current foundational ideas about learning.

  • “Learning is fundamentally social.” It is both an intellectual and relational experience, and we must not undervalue that combination.
  • “Learning is always cultural.” It is always “historical and value-laden” (Dr. Vossoughi’s words). Our methods, practices, goals and the way we understand knowledge emerges from this history and values.
  • “Learning (and knowledge) is political.” We make choices as we create learning environments. Those choices arc toward reproducing injustice or facilitating the transformation of unjust systems.

These just strike me as powerful lenses through which to assess work that I do in my various practitioner roles.

It resonates (deeply) in the conversations I have with others in the online community/knowledge sharing world. What if our work within organizations were guided by these ideas?

It also resonates (deeply) in the conversations I have with others when we look at ourselves – in all professional roles – as engaging in “design.” Meaning: All of the work we do as organizational professionals creates some environment which impacts the experience of others. What if our work as designers (in the broadest sense) were guided by these ideas?

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