Making Insights Work: Teaching is more than a list of findings

We sometimes forget that part of what we do when conducting research is teaching.  We collect information, gather stakeholders together and tell them what we’ve learned. Working from this position, we also are prone to forgetting that we are part of a system, not individual ethnographers working predominately in isolation. Companies hire us to create, uncover and teach. Consequently, it’s healthy for us to periodically step back and think about not only how we deliver research, but how we teach.  Pedagogy is more than a $5 word, it is central to how we create and how we find our skills incorporated into the greater design and business dialogs.

Praxis is where it begins. Where other forms of participatory action research emphasize the collective modification of the external world, the praxis intervention model emphasizes working on the Praxis potential. This means the researchers’ potential to reflexively work on their respective mentalities.  The division between client and participant is diminished or done away with, and all parties engaged in the research become beneficiaries of the research – the focus becomes the system rather than the constituents alone. The praxis intervention method prioritizes unsettling the settled mentalities, providing a creative, lived-in learning space.  And it is precisely because of this action-oriented, shared sense of learning that pedagogy becomes a matter of import.

Pedagogy is the study of being a teacher or the process of teaching. It isn’t enough to do fieldwork and report, we have to consider how we teach. Pedagogy generally refers to strategies of instruction, or a style of instruction.  There are, of course, a multitude of competing theories, but in the design space (from message design to industrial design) Creative Pedagogy works well. Creative Pedagogy teaches learners how to learn creatively, become creators of themselves and creators of their future.  The theory is predicated on the idea that society needs more and more creative people, something with which I am inclined to agree. The emergence and growth of the creative class is a reality. Hence the idea developing a creator (a creative person) capable of meeting the constantly growing complexity and accelerating development of the society.

The goal is, or should be, to develop models for creating and teaching once we leave the field, rather than simply providing content. Content is usually ignored or at least filtered through the cognitive model/professional lens that people are most comfortable with. Give a finance guy an insight and he will either dismiss it if he can’t make sense of it within his framework, or he will reinterpret to fit his model of thinking.  Creativity dies at the point of the handoff.  That means that a large portion of every project has to be devoted to how we turn information into something meaningful.  Good research design is part of the project, but equally so is good pedagogical design.

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