Children can play a valuable role in the design process, for example of playground equipment. As co-researchers, children can play a valuable role in the design process, for example of playground equipment. This is the claim made by Fenne van Doorn, who has been awarded her PhD for her thesis on this subject at TU Delft on Wednesday, 30 March. Her research is also valuable for education: children appear to learn a lot from their role as researchers.
The creativity of children is overestimated but underutilised in current research on design. This is the main claim in the PhD research conducted by Fenne van Doorn. She investigated how children can play a role in exploring design problems by allowing them to conduct research in their own social network as co-researchers, for example through interviews with their peers. This concerns children between 8 and 12 years of age, and products from their world, such as new playground equipment.
“By involving children as co-researchers, they became super-participants, valuable informants who ensure that (adult) designers can make decisions that are in the interests of children,” says Van Doorn. “However,”, the TU Delft PhD candidate emphasises, “we must also not overestimate the creativity of children as designers. Giving children complete freedom in the creative design process or in research does not work well. There must be clear parameters and guidelines.”
Van Doorn conducted 11 case studies in which children carried out user research among peers or people close to them. An example was the Bomenwijk playground in Delft, where the new Memo play system was presented. Memo consists of seven posts with LED touch screens. To play, children have to run from one post to the next. Depending on the game they’re playing, they may have to hit the post, run circles around it or do a sum, etc.
Fenne van Doorn was involved in the development of Memo. Children gathered information and feedback on the system from other children. This gave the developers an honest picture of the children’s requirements and wishes in relation to both playground equipment and playing with the elderly. Other case studies were done in collaboration with partners such as the Rijksmuseum and children’s charity Jantje Beton.
“My research resulted in a theoretical model on involving children as co-researchers. It also produced a number of case studies that show how to set up and implement a co-research project.But we also learnt that each project is different.”
Fenne van Doorn, TU Delft researcher, F.A.P.vanDoorn@tudelft.nl