Conflict, convergence, and co-design: How informal learning partnerships make researchers and practitioners more creative
Prof II Kevin Crowley is a professor of Learning Sciences and Policy at the University of Pittsburgh, where he also directs the University of Pittsburgh Center for Learning in Out-of-School Environments (UPCLOSE) and is a Senior Scientists at the Learning Research and Development Center. Crowley works in partnership with museums, community organizations, and other informal educators to develop innovative learning environments. Crowley’s group conducts learning sciences research in informal settings and develops new theories of how people learn about science, technology, engineering, and art.
The field of informal learning thrives on partnerships. This has long been true in the context of practice, where informal learning institutions have often called upon the expertise of university researchers, community groups, technologists, and evaluators to develop new learning experiences. But partnerships have also fundamentally transformed the informal learning research community – from how we frame hypotheses, to how we look for and analyze evidence, to what our theories attempt to explain. Research/practice partnerships are hard. They involve opportunity, yes, but also risk and conflict. Drawing on examples from my own work, I will explore examples where tensions inherent in research/practice partnerships led to methodological and theoretical advances in the learning sciences. I conclude with thoughts about how informal learning partnerships might be structured for creative, as opposed to disruptive, tension.