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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh Futures Institute : Edinburgh Futures Institute

Postgraduate Course: Introduction to Participatory Methods (fusion on-site) (EFIE11106)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh Futures Institute CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryParticipatory methods concern how to involve and empower others in research, design and management. Whatever specific context or domain, it is essential to understanding, including and bridging the needs and values of multiple stakeholders and end-users of a service or during a design or research project.

This course provides a broad introduction to participatory methods, from research and design, through to evaluation and envisioning of new services. It will provide students critical skills to choose between a suite of participatory methods, and plan a comprehensive approach to involving people in service management and design.

This course is particularly recommended for students planning to use participatory methods, or to work with specific communities or stakeholders in their KIPP / Futures project.
Course description This course, outlined below, takes students through the key stages of participatory practice - from understanding the origins and importance of participatory approaches; and how to involve participants equitably in research; towards participatory design methods; and how to envision participatory futures.

The individual, pre-intensive, component will introduce students to key concepts and prepare them for group work through a comprehensive reading pack, a pre-recorded introductory lecture and discussion of real-world case studies of participation in practice.

The two-day intensive component is divided into four, connected, half-day sessions addressing:

(i) Theory and Purpose - outlining the origins and importance of participatory practice;
(ii) Participatory Research - focused on approaches to involving diverse stakeholders equitably in research projects;
(iii) Participatory Design and Use - introducing a suite of participatory design methods to configure participation in a design process;
(iv) Participatory Futures - introducing approaches to involving people in envisioning alternative future technologies and services.

The post-intensive period will build on group work during the intensive days through virtual studios where students will work in groups to outline and present a plan for a participatory project (including research, design and futures) in response to a selection of briefs / challenges related to data-driven innovation, which will be assessed through a group presentation, and an individual reflective essay.

Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI) - On-Site Fusion Course Delivery Information:

The Edinburgh Futures Institute will teach this course in a way that enables online and on-campus students to study together. This approach (our 'fusion' teaching model) offers students flexible and inclusive ways to study, and the ability to choose whether to be on-campus or online at the level of the individual course. It also opens up ways for diverse groups of students to study together regardless of geographical location. To enable this, the course will use technologies to record and live-stream student and staff participation during their teaching and learning activities.

Students should be aware that:
- Classrooms used in this course will have additional technology in place: students might not be able to sit in areas away from microphones or outside the field of view of all cameras.
- Unless the lecturer or tutor indicates otherwise you should assume the session is being recorded.

As part of your course, you will need access to a personal computing device. Unless otherwise stated activities will be web browser based and as a minimum we recommend a device with a physical keyboard and screen that can access the internet.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  20
Course Start Semester 2
Course Start Date 15/01/2024
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 2, Seminar/Tutorial Hours 4, Supervised Practical/Workshop/Studio Hours 8, Online Activities 10, Formative Assessment Hours 3, Other Study Hours 6, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 65 )
Additional Information (Learning and Teaching) Other Study: Scheduled Group-work Hours (hybrid online/on-campus) - 6
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Summative Assessment:

The course will be assessed by means of the following assessment components:

1) Group Participatory Project Outline (25%)

Working in a group, students will be asked to work together to produce an outline of a participatory project, encompassing a mix of research, design and futuring, in relation to a brief or challenge around a contemporary data-driven service. It will take the form of a slide-deck submitted shortly (e.g. 2-3 days) after a formative class presentation.

Asynchronous students will be provided equal opportunity to work in groups, present their work, and gain formative feedback. A group mark will be awarded based on this presentation.

2) 1000-1500 Word Individual Reflective Essay / Blog (75%)

Each group member will then write a 1000-1500 word reflective essay / blog that details and critiques one particular aspect of their participatory approach (research, design or futuring) in detail. They will be expected to highlight the strengths and limitations of their approach, and justify their choice of methods in their particular domain and context. The response should also include reflection on who would participate in the project, and how their participation would be configured equitably throughout. This assessment should examine students' understanding of how to approach participatory practice, and how to apply participatory methods to new and emerging social, economic and data-driven contexts.
Feedback Feedback on the formative assessment may be provided in various formats, for example, to include written, oral, video, face-to-face, whole class, or individual. The course organiser will decide which format is most appropriate in relation to the nature of the assessment.

Feedback on both formative and summative in-course assessed work will be provided in time to be of use in subsequent assessments within the course.

Feedback on the summative assessment will be provided in written form via Learn, the University of Edinburgh's Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).

Students will receive feedback at various points during the course:
- Peer critique and from tutors via feedback sessions and discussion throughout the intensive days will prepare students for the post-intensive group activity where they will apply methods they have learned to a new brief.
- Through verbal and written feedback on their group slide-decks, students will receive guidance that prepares them for the individual assessment.
- Written feedback on their individual reflective essay, and group work will support their further development beyond the course.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Express a critical understanding of participatory practice, and its purpose and importance in inclusive and progressive service design and management.
  2. Understand contemporary methods of participatory research, design and futuring.
  3. Recognise how different participatory methods can be used to configure participation in different contexts.
  4. Critically evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of various participatory practices.
  5. Plan a bespoke participatory project to involve diverse communities in research, design and futuring related to contemporary social, economic and data-driven challenges and include participatory practices throughout their professional endeavours.
Reading List
Indicative Reading List:

Essential Reading:

Gillian R. Hayes. 2011. The relationship of action research to human-computer interaction. ACM Trans. Comput.-Hum. Interact. 18, 3, Article 15 (July 2011), 20 pages. DOI:

Vines, J., Clarke, R., Wright, P., McCarthy, J., & Olivier, P. (2013, April). Configuring participation: on how we involve people in design. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 429-438).

Sanders, E. B. N., & Stappers, P. J. (2014). Probes, toolkits and prototypes: three approaches to making in codesigning. CoDesign, 10(1), 5-14.

Recommended Reading:

Kozubaev, S., Elsden, C., Howell, N., S√łndergaard, M. L. J., Merrill, N., Schulte, B., & Wong, R. Y. (2020, April). Expanding Modes of Reflection in Design Futuring. In Proceedings of the 2020 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1-15).

Le Dantec, C. A., & Fox, S. (2015, February). Strangers at the gate: Gaining access, building rapport, and co-constructing community-based research. In Proceedings of the 18th ACM conference on computer supported cooperative work & social computing (pp. 1348-1358).

Osborne, S. P., Nasi, G., & Powell, M. Beyond co-production: value creation and public services. Public Administration.

Simonsen, J., & Robertson, T. (Eds.). (2012). Routledge international handbook of participatory design. Routledge.

Further Reading:

Christina Harrington, Sheena Erete, and Anne Marie Piper. 2019. Deconstructing Community-Based Collaborative Design: Towards More Equitable Participatory Design Engagements. Proc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact. 3, CSCW, Article 216 (November 2019), 25 pages. DOI:

Star, S., Griesemer, J. Institutional ecology, 'translations', and boundary objects: amateurs and professionals in Berkeley's museum of vertebrate zoology, 1907-39. Social studies of science, 19, 3, 387-420
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills On completion of this course, the student will gain experience in the following attributes and skills:

- Critical and empathetic thinking about how to involve diverse stakeholders and participants in the management and design of new services;
- Developing familiarity with a whole toolbox of potential participatory methods that can be used to configure participation and adapted to a range of contexts;
- Through group work during and after the intensive time, they will develop skills in working collaboratively with others;
- Organisational abilities to plan a bespoke participatory project;
- Critical and creative thinking to solve problems related to planning a bespoke participatory project.
KeywordsParticipatory Design,Co-Design,Value Creation,Co-Creation,Design Futuring,Action Research,Design
Course organiserDr Chris Elsden
Course secretaryMr David Murphy
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