Gutiérrez, Kris D. & Jurow, A. Susan (2016): Social design experiments: Toward equity by design, Journal of the Learning Sciences, DOI: 10.1080/10508406.2016.1204548

Under consult of design research traditions in iterating educational inventions that ground theory in practice within particular contexts, Gutiérrez and Jurow put forward social design experimentation (SDE) as an additional but needed methodological commitment to non-dominant learner communities (immigrant learners, dual language learners, under-resourced learners, etc.). Where traditional design-based research (DBR) aims to craft novel observations, understandings, and technologies in the contexts of transforming existing institutions, SDE seeks social transformation and equity by reorganizing educational systems so that learners may actively engineer their own fates. The goal for SDE is the empowerment of a learner to consciously and intentionally situate action within his or her own sense of identity. Doing so–critically analyzing and comprehending the orientations behind one’s own practices–defines potential new agency for any individual. The development of this sort of opportunity is the goal of SDE and a means by which equity may be found by all learners as their varied knowledge, expertise, and experiences are celebrated–upending more traditional and institutional power structures by creating new, diverse communities of practice.

Gutiérrez and Jurow offer examples of social design works to illustrate how the foregrounding of equity as a design consideration is not just socially ideal but also pragmatic. Fairness is generally a valuable pursuit and access to equity is a byproduct of one’s consciously situating his or her identity among larger historical and institutionalized practices so as to problematize these structures. The difficulty, for researchers and students alike, may very well be the complexity and variety of new learning practices and identities that result from SDE. The cultivation of communities for teacher and learner alike is an active, taxing process of reorientation around other individuals. That said, careful implementation of SDE may certainly expand DBR beyond the scope of learning contexts. Also, the authors’ discussion of syncretic texts–reconciling historical and cultural oppositions within a new communicative gesture–seems apt for consideration when developing content for open educational resources.


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