A pedagogical proposal in an area of epistemological uncertainty
In professional areas in which there is an element of design practice, such as architecture and urbanism, the academic model of knowledge has not been clearly articulated. This means that often the values held in professional practice run counter to the traditional models of knowledge and research that are adopted. As a result there is a problem in accounting for research in these areas in ways that will be recognised and valued by both communities. There is an ongoing debate about the best way of dealing with and reflecting these values that are, from the academic viewpoint, non-traditional. The debate has substantiated an emergent type of research that is specific to areas of design practice that is called ‘Practice-based Research’ (PbR). PbR claims that design practice has an instrumental role in research in areas such as design and urban planning. This role is different from the role of experimentation in traditional empirical research, and different from the role of practice in professional design practice. This paper describes the development and delivery of a research methods training course in the department of spatial planning and design (Stedenbouw) at the Technical University Delft (TU Delft, Netherlands) that builds on research by the ‘Non-traditional Knowledge and Communication’ project (NtKC) at the University of Hertfordshire (UK). The paper will analyse the way in which research and practice are problematized in the TU Delft course. We claim that the problem of PbR manifests the differences between the worldviews of academic research and professional practice, with their differing aims and values. As a result, training and expertise in the professional values of design practice is insufficient for academic research, leading to a need for specific training as a researcher that recognises these differences. This need has been accepted at an institutional level in many universities in Europe, and the TU Delft course represents one such training programme.