Rexfelt, Oskar, Wallgren, Pontus and Nikitas, Alexandros (2015) Turning Interaction Design Students into Co-researchers: How We Tried This and Somewhat Failed. In: Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE15), Great Expectations: Design Teaching, Research & Enterprise. E&PDE . Design Society, pp. 194-199. ISBN 978-1-904670-62-9

There are many potential benefits of involving university students in research (as researchers, not subjects). It can help students to increase their retentive knowledge in the subject they study, and also develop research skills such as problem framing and analysis. While disciplines such as psychology and medicine have a tradition of students contributing to research publications, Design and Product Development does not. This indicates an untapped potential for researchers in these fields to more actively engage their students in their work.
In the spring of 2014, we made an effort to involve Interaction Design master’s students in our research. It was in a Product Development course on "User Requirements Elicitation”. The research itself dealt by comparison with the effectiveness of two research methods; namely, individual interviews compared to group interviews. During the course, students in groups made a quantitative and qualitative comparison of the two methods.
The initiative of involving the students in research was evaluated in terms of:
• Quality of the conducted research.
• The students’ knowledge development of the course topic.
• The students’ development of research skills.
• The students’ experiences and perceptions of the research initiative.
Furthermore, the goal was to provide some explanations on why these effects occurred, and show implications for future initiatives of a similar kind.
In retrospect, it was clear that the students did not appreciate this initiative. Their opinion was that it did not have a high enough “pay-off” in relation to their efforts. The course received very low scores when the students evaluated it. However, we could see quite clearly that they had developed an in-depth knowledge of the compared methods. The students also discussed issues such as reliability and validity of their research in a way that we had not seen in the course in its previous years.
Although the results of the experiment were particularly encouraging in terms of knowledge generation and research skills’ development due to the all-time low course ratings of the student evaluation there will not be a continuation of the course in the current form. In general our advice for teachers wanting to do research with students is the following:
• If it is part of a course, be aware of the challenges this conveys. In particular, be aware of the students' expectations and try to make the research-based part of the course its main objective, rather than something they perceive as “extra work”
• Make them true co-researchers. Take part in the “simpler” tasks yourself and let them take part in the more advanced tasks. They will learn more by actively working with you, than by merely cooperating with you through an asynchronous division of the work in the research process. This will also have a positive effect on the scientific quality of the research, which may suffer if the students work on their own.

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