PhD Research


I earned my my Doctor of Philosophy in creative arts (media design) from James Cook University in Townsville, Australia.  After reading the abstract below, if you would like to learn more about this topic, please visit my research blog — or download the full text from ResearchOnline@JCU.


This research sought to reveal the extent to which service-learning in design education (SLIDE) provides a mutually beneficial experience for undergraduate design students and community partners. A two-phased, mixed-methods study, employing surveys and case study research, was conducted to address the main research question. During the first phase, an online survey was administered with design educators in Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom to better understand the current practice of service-learning in design education. After this broad scan, a second survey was developed to discover the design-related needs that exist in the community, specifically at nonprofit organizations, thereby gaining perspective from the outside in. During the second phase, case study research was conducted at 12 sites to explain the results of the surveys and to holistically examine the university-community partnerships. The intersection of a service-learning taxonomy (Britt, 2009) with the orders of design (Buchanan, 2001) creates the theoretical framework for this research.

The findings demonstrate the benefits and challenges associated with service-learning for three stakeholder groups—undergraduate design students, community partners and design educators. This research confirms and extends theory in design (Buchanan, 2001) and service-learning (Morton, 1995; Britt, 2009). It also offers new insights into the roles that community partners play during design-related service-learning. The study contributes to what we already know about the complexities of design education in the twenty-first century and raises some important questions for the discipline in an effort to improve practice and build knowledge about SLIDE.

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