This paper advances an argument for ‘design research’ as a core approach to developing useful knowledge for health education and training. Design research is research that is intended to produce actionable design knowledge: in our case, knowledge that can be used by people who are involved in designing for other people’s work-related learning. Design research includes understanding how design is actually accomplished (its working practices, tools, methods, capabilities of the people involved, etc.) and understanding how local learning systems function. A richer and more realistic sense of how design is done is of great practical use. It can guide other aspects of the production of knowledge that will be useful to designers. Educational and training interventions tend to be complex and learning is often diverse and messy. Understanding the internal dynamics of local learning systems is useful to those whose job it is to improve their functioning. Analysis of this kind can also stimulate reflection on the why and how of design: design teams learn a great deal about the systems in which they are meshed. The paper ends with some thoughts about how organisations and journals can help to capture and share these lessons learned.
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