Using an action research approach to embed service design in a higher education institution

  • Heather Madden Cork Institute of Technology
  • Andrew T Walters PDR, Cardiff Metropolitan University
Keywords: Design Thinking, Higher Education, Change


Design Thinking can address the political and cultural divides in higher education and improve the focus on student experience. The challenge is reshaping a traditional organisation into a more modern one and at the same time creating an environment that is favourable towards change brought about by design-led thinking.

In one higher education institute, almost two years into the journey and despite some challenges along the way, Service Design methods are demonstrating their capacity to change the processes and procedures that support the delivery of student services in higher education.

An action research approach is currently being used to assess how the tools of Design Thinking are applied to real organisational problems and the consequences of design-led action. This research introduces a new set of tools and techniques to an organisation and analyses the effects of this fresh approach on the organisation via a number of action research cycles. There are many stages on the road to introduce Design Thinking as a bottom-up approach to changing an organisation into a more innovative, progressive, efficient and user-centred one.


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Author Biography

Heather Madden, Cork Institute of Technology

Heather Madden is a Business Analyst at Cork Institute of Technology and plays a key role in aligning business processes with people & technology. A keen interest in process improvement using a Service Design approach has allowed her to emphasise the importance of the end user experience. She is currently a PhD candidate at Cardiff Metropolitan University.


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How to Cite
Madden, H. and Walters, A. T. (2016) “Using an action research approach to embed service design in a higher education institution”, Swedish Design Research Journal, 14(1), pp. 40-50. doi: 10.3384/svid.2000-964X.16140.
Research articles