Qualitative Meta-Research for Education

During the last months I was designing a class for Human Centered Design. I try to practice what I preach, so the class is designed with human centered methods itself. (Pretty meta, hmm?)

So I started the project by doing  interviews with students of a former HCD class. As well I incorporated student's self-documentation and my observations during that class. So I ended up with a large amount of data that needed to be organized. I choose to create an affinity diagramm. Such a diagram is created by printing out every piece of data that can meaningful stand on its own on little notes. Than they are sorted after common topics they concern. If a topic is identified it gets a kind of heading on a note in a different color. It is pretty helpful but takes a lot of time and energy and space. Anyhow, I now hope that I have a clearer look on the former participants activities, motivations and problems.


It turned out that data analysis was a problem. Few students managed to get something out of the interview data that made sense for them – except for what was  accessible directly from  interviews itself. This gives me some room for improvement, though I am not surprised. In many occasions I saw, that upfront user research is hard to get across, not to mention to do for a newcomer. In addition, even"rapid" ways that are described in books require a team with some experienced members and quite some resources. On the other hand, if this kind of research is described in brief, it is usually on one page and such suggestions often skip analysis.

I hope that using techniques like role-playing, giving well crafted examples and explaining how one can organize findings will result in an improvement here.

Prototyping on the other side seemed to be a highlight among the class activities. It was told to me in the interviews that it was a lot of fun. So possibly I try to get them do prototypes earlier in the process. Less pondering, more creation! I hope this can relieve common problem of designers as well that I was occurring as well: being fixated on one’s own design.