Educational Technology Research and Development

, Volume 64, Issue 5, pp 969–1001 | Cite as

Inscribing ethics and values in designs for learning: a problematic

  • Colin M. GrayEmail author
  • Elizabeth Boling
Development Article


The exponential growth in technological capability has resulted in increased interest on the short- and long-term effects of designed artifacts, leading to a focus in many design fields on the ethics and values that are inscribed in the designs we create. While ethical awareness is a key concern in many engineering, technology, and design disciplines—even an accreditation requirement in many fields—instructional design and technology (IDT) has not historically focused their view of practice on ethics, instead relying on a more scientistic view of practice which artificially limits the designer’s interaction with the surrounding society through the artifacts and experiences they design. In this paper, we argue for a heightened view of designer responsibility and design process in an ethical framing, drawing on methods and theoretical frameworks of ethical responsibility from the broader design community. We then demonstrate the frequency of ethical concerns that emerge in a content analysis of design cases that document authentic instructional design practice. We conclude with two paths forward to improve instructional design education and research regarding the nature of practice, advocating for increased documentation of design precedent to generatively complicate our notions of the design process, and for the creation and use of critical designs to foreground ethical and value-related concerns in IDT research and practice.


Ethics Values Guarantor of design Design precedent Critical design 



This study was not funded.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). (2015). Criteria for accrediting applied science programs. Accessed 01 Dec 2015.
  2. Albrechtslund, A. (2007). Ethics and technology design. Ethics and Information Technology, 9(1), 63–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Association for Educational Communications & Technology (AECT). (2007). Code of professional ethics. Accessed 01 Nov 2015.
  4. Bardzell, S., & Bardzell, J. (2011). Towards a feminist HCI methodology: Social science, feminism, and HCI. Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 675–684). New York: ACM Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bardzell, J., & Bardzell, S. (2015). Humanistic HCI. San Rafael: Morgan Claypool Publishers.Google Scholar
  6. Bardzell, J., Bardzell, S., & Stolterman, E. (2014). Reading critical designs: Supporting reasoned interpretations of critical design. Proceedings of the 32nd annual ACM conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 1951–1960). New York: ACM Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Becker, L. C., & Becker, C. B. (Eds.). (2001). Encyclopedia of ethics (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Boling, E. (2010). The need for design cases: Disseminating design knowledge. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 1(1), 1–8.Google Scholar
  9. Boling, E., & Gray, C. M. (2015). Designerly tools, sketching, and instructional designers and the guarantors of design. In B. Hokanson, G. Clinton, & M. W. Tracey (Eds.), The design of learning experience: Creating the future of educational technology (pp. 109–126). Switzerland: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-16504-2_8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Boling, E., & Smith, K. M. (2012). The changing nature of design. In R. Reiser & J. V. Dempsey (Eds.), Trends and issues in instructional design and technology (3rd ed., pp. 358–366). Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.Google Scholar
  11. Borgmann, A. (2010). Reality and technology. Cambridge Journal of Economics, 34(1), 27–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Borning, A., & Muller, M. (2012). Next steps for value sensitive design. Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 1125–1134). New York: ACM Press.Google Scholar
  13. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101. doi: 10.1191/1478088706qp063oa.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cahn, S. M., & Markie, P. (1998). Ethics: History, theory and contemporary issues. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Campbell, K. (2015). The feminist instructional designer: An autoethnography. In B. Hokanson, G. Clinton, & M. W. Tracey (Eds.), The design of learning experience: Creating the future of educational technology (pp. 231–249). Switzerland: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Campbell, K., Schwier, R. A., & Kenny, R. F. (2009). The critical, relational practice of instructional design in higher education: An emerging model of change agency. Educational Technology Research and Development, 57(5), 645–663. doi: 10.1007/s11423-007-9061-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Campbell, R. C., Yasuhara, K., & Wilson, D. (2012). Care ethics in engineering education: Undergraduate student perceptions of responsibility. In Frontiers in education conference (FIE). Seattle, WA: IEEE. doi: 10.1109/FIE.2012.6462370.
  18. Carspecken, P. F. (1996). Critical ethnography in educational research: A theoretical and practical guide. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Cockton, G. (2005). A development framework for value-centred design. In CHI ‘05 Extended Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1292–1295). New York: ACM Press. doi: 10.1145/1056808.1056899.
  20. Collins, S. (2015). The core of care ethics. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Corbin, J. M., & Strauss, A. L. (2008). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory (3rd ed.). Los Angeles: Sage Publications.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Cross, N. (2001). Designerly ways of knowing: Design discipline versus design science. Design Issues, 17(3), 49–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Cross, N. (2007). Designerly ways of knowing. Basel: Birkhäuser.Google Scholar
  24. Cultural Research in Technology Group (CRIT). (n.d.). Pee Timer (Austin Toombs and Shad Gross, designers). Accessed 01 Nov 2015.
  25. Damarin, S. K. (1994). Equity, caring, and beyond: Can feminist ethics inform educational technology? Educational Technology, 34(2), 34–39.Google Scholar
  26. Detweiler, C., Pommeranz, A., & Stark, L. (2012). Methods to account for values in human-centered computing. CHI’12 extended abstracts on human factors in computing systems (pp. 2735–2738). New York, NY: ACM Press.Google Scholar
  27. DiSalvo, C. (2012). Adversarial design. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  28. Dunne, J. (1997). Back to the rough ground: Practical judgment and the lure of technique. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
  29. Dunne, A. (2005). Hertzian tales: Electronic products, aesthetic experience, and critical design. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  30. Dunne, A., & Raby, F. (2013). Speculative everything: Design, fiction, and social dreaming. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  31. Faiola, A. (2007). The design enterprise: Rethinking the HCI education paradigm. Design Issues, 23(3), 30–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fallman, D. (2011). The new good: Exploring the potential of philosophy of technology to contribute to human-computer interaction. Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 1051–1060). New York: ACM Press.Google Scholar
  33. Ferri, G., Bardzell, J., Bardzell, S., & Louraine, S. (2014). Analyzing critical designs: Categories, distinctions, and canons of exemplars. Proceedings of the 2014 conference on designing interactive systems (pp. 355–364). New York: ACM Press.Google Scholar
  34. Findeli, A. (2001). Rethinking design education for the 21st century: Theoretical, methodological, and ethical discussion. Design Issues, 17(1), 5–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Flanagan, M., & Nissenbaum, H. F. (2014). Values at play in digital games. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  36. Freire, P. (1970/2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.Google Scholar
  37. Friedman, K. (2012). Models of design: Envisioning a future design education. Visible Language, 46(1/2), 132–153.Google Scholar
  38. Friedman, B., & Kahn, P. H., Jr. (2003). Human values, ethics, and design. In J. A. Jacko & A. Sears (Eds.), The human-computer interaction handbook (pp. 1177–1201). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  39. Friedman, B., Kahn, P., & Borning, A. (2002). Value sensitive design: Theory and methods. University of Washington Technical Report, 02–12. Accessed 01 Nov 2015.
  40. Gaver, W. W., Bowers, J., Boucher, A., Gellerson, H., Pennington, S., Schmidt, A., et al. (2004). The drift table: Designing for ludic engagement. CHI’04 extended abstracts on human factors in computing systems (pp. 885–900). New York: ACM Press.Google Scholar
  41. Gibbons, A. S. (2013). An architectural approach to instructional design. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  42. Gibbons, A. S., Boling, E., & Smith, K. M. (2014). Instructional design models. In J. M. Spector et al. (Eds.), Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (pp. 607–615). New York, NY: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4614-3185-5_48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Giddens, A. (1979). Central problems in social theory: Action, structure, and contradiction in social analysis. Berkeley: University of California Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice. Cambridge: Harvard Educational Press.Google Scholar
  45. Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. New York: Alpine de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  46. Gray, C. M., Dagli, C., Demiral-Uzan, M., Ergulec, F., Tan, V., Altuwaijri, A. A., et al. (2015a). Judgment and instructional design: How ID practitioners work in practice. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 28(3), 25–49.Google Scholar
  47. Gray, C. M., & Howard, C. D. (2015). Normative concerns, avoided: Instructional barriers in designing for social change. In R. S. Adams, P. Buzzanell, & J. A. Siddiqui (Eds.), Analyzing design review conversations (pp. 241–260). West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.Google Scholar
  48. Gray, C. M., Yilmaz, S., Daly, S., Seifert, C. M., & Gonzalez, R. (2015b). Idea generation through empathy: Reimagining the ‘cognitive walkthrough’. In Proceedings of the ASEE Annual Conference (pp. 26.871.1–26.871.29), Seattle, WA.Google Scholar
  49. Harrison, S., Sengers, P., & Tatar, D. (2011). Making epistemological trouble: third-paradigm HCI as successor science. Interacting with Computers, 23(5), 385–392. doi: 10.1016/j.intcom.2011.03.005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Hart Research Associates. (2015). Falling short? College learning and career success. Conducted on Behalf of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Accessed 01 Nov 2015.
  51. Holt, J. E. (1997). The designer’s judgement. Design Studies, 18(1), 113–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Huber, A. M. (2015). Diminishing the dread: Exploring service learning and student motivation. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 6(1), 1–15.Google Scholar
  53. Ihde, D. (1993). Philosophy of technology: An introduction. New York: Paragon House.Google Scholar
  54. Inouye, D. K., Merrill, P. F., & Swan, R. H. (2005). Help: Toward a new ethics-centered paradigm for instructional design and technology. IDT Record. Accessed 01 Nov 2015.
  55. Knobel, C., & Bowker, G. C. (2011). Values in design. Communications of the ACM, 54(7), 26. doi: 10.1145/1965724.1965735.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Koepfler, J. A., Stark, L., Dourish, P., Sengers, P., & Shilton, K. (2014). Values & design in HCI education. CHI’14 extended abstracts on human factors in computing systems (pp. 127–130). New York: ACM Press.Google Scholar
  57. Kohlberg, L. (1984). The psychology of moral development: The nature and validity of moral stages (Essays on Moral Development, Volume 2). San Francisco: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  58. Krippendorf, K. (2005). The semantic turn: A new foundation for design. Boca Raton: CRC Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Lawson, B., & Dorst, K. (2009). Design expertise. Oxford: Architectural Press.Google Scholar
  60. Le Dantec, C. A., & Do, E. Y. (2009). The mechanisms of value transfer in design meetings. Design Studies, 30(2), 119–137. doi: 10.1016/j.destud.2008.12.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Le Dantec, C. A., Poole, E. S., & Wyche, S. P. (2009). Values as lived experience: Evolving value sensitive design in support of value discovery. Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 1141–1150). New York: ACM Press.Google Scholar
  62. Lin, H. (2007). The ethics of instructional technology: Issues and coping strategies experienced by professional technologists in design and training situations in higher education. Educational Technology Research and Development, 55(5), 411–437.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Lloyd, P. (2009). Ethical imagination and design. Design Studies, 30(2), 154–168. doi: 10.1016/j.destud.2008.12.004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Louw, M., Ansari, A., Bartley, C., & Sanford, C. (2013). Stories in the rock: A design case of an explorable image viewer in a natural history museum. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 4(2), 56–71.Google Scholar
  65. Marcuse, H. (1991). One-dimensional man: Studies in the ideology of advanced industrial society. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  66. McDonagh, D. (2015). Design students foreseeing the unforeseeable: Practice-based empathic research methods. International Journal of Education Through Art, 11(3), 421–431. doi: 10.1386/eta.11.3.421_1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. McPhail, K. (2001). The other objective of ethics education: Re-humanising the accounting profession–A study of ethics education in law, engineering, medicine and accountancy. Journal of Business Ethics, 34(3–4), 279–298. doi: 10.1023/A:1012576631990.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Moore, S. L. (2009). Social responsibility of a profession: An analysis of faculty perception of social responsibility factors and integration into graduate programs of educational technology. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 22(2), 79–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Moore, S. (2014). Ethics and design: Rethinking professional ethics as part of the design domain. In B. Hokanson & A. Gibbons (Eds.), Design in educational technology (pp. 185–204). Switzerland: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-00927-8_11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Moore, S. L., & Ellsworth, J. B. (2014). Ethics of educational technology. In J. M. Spector, et al. (Eds.), Handbook of research on educational communications and technology (pp. 113–127). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Mulcahy, R. S. (2011). Bottom line: Defining success in the creation of a business simulation. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 2(1), 1–17.Google Scholar
  72. Nelson, H. G., & Stolterman, E. (2012). The design way: Intentional change in an unpredictable world (2nd ed.). Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  73. Nichols, R. G. (1994). Searching for moral guidance about educational technology. Educational Technology, 34(2), 40–48.Google Scholar
  74. Norman, E. (1998). The nature of technology for design. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 8(1), 67–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Oxman, R. (1999). Educating the designerly thinker. Design Studies, 20(2), 105–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Pantazidou, M., & Nair, I. (1999). Ethic of care: Guiding principles for engineering teaching & practice. Journal of Engineering Education, 88(2), 205–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Papanek, V. (1995). The green imperative: Ecology and ethics in design and architecture. London: Thames and Hudson.Google Scholar
  78. Papanek, V. (2005). Design for the real world: Human ecology and social change (2nd ed.). Chicago: Chicago Review Press.Google Scholar
  79. Papert, S. (1987). A critique of technocentrism in thinking about the school of the future. Accessed 01 Nov 2015.
  80. Pardo, A., & Siemens, G. (2014). Ethical and privacy principles for learning analytics. British Journal of Educational Technology, 45, 3. doi: 10.1111/bjet.12152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Petroski, H. (2012). To forgive design: Understanding failure. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Prestopnik, N., & Foley, A. R. (2012). Visualizing the past: The design of a temporally enabled map for presentation (TEMPO). International Journal of Designs for Learning, 3(1), 52–60.Google Scholar
  83. Racek, J., & Smith, K. M. (2013). A place to play: Teaching communities how to build playgrounds. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 4(1), 1–10.Google Scholar
  84. Riley, D. (2013). Hidden in plain view: Feminists doing engineering ethics, engineers doing feminist ethics. Science and Engineering Ethics, 19(1), 189–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Rowland, G. (1992). What do instructional designers actually do? An initial investigation of expert practice. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 5(2), 65–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Rowland, G. (1993). Designing and instructional design. Educational Technology Research and Development, 41(1), 79–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Schwier, R. A., Campbell, K., & Kenny, R. F. (2007). Instructional designers’ perceptions of their agency: Tales of change and community. In M. J. Keppell (Ed.), Instructional design: Case studies in communities of practice (pp. 1–18). Hershey: Information Science Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Sengers, P., Boehner, K., David, S., & Kaye, J. (2005). Reflective design. CC’05: Proceedings of the 4th decennial conference on critical computing: Between sense and sensibility (pp. 49–58). New York: ACM Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Shilton, K. (2012). Values levers: Building ethics into design. Science, Technology and Human Values, 38(3), 374–397. doi: 10.1177/0162243912436985.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  90. Shilton, K., Koepfler, J. A., & Fleischmann, K. R. (2014). How to see values in social computing: Methods for studying values dimensions. In Proceedings of the 17th ACM conference on computer supported cooperative work & social computing (CSCW '14) (pp. 426–435). New York, NY: ACM Press. doi: 10.1145/2531602.2531625.
  91. Simon, H. A. (1996). The sciences of the artificial (3rd ed.). Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  92. Slade, S., & Prinsloo, P. (2013). Learning analytics: Ethical issues and dilemmas. American Behavioral Scientist, 57(10), 1510–1529. doi: 10.1177/0002764213479366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  93. Smaldino, S. (2008). Classroom strategies for teaching ethics. New Directions for Higher Education, 2008(142), 87–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Smith, K. M. (2010). Producing the rigorous design case. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 1(1), 10–20.Google Scholar
  95. Smith, K. M., & Boling, E. (2009). What do we make of design? Design as a concept in educational technology. Educational Technology, 49(4), 3–17.Google Scholar
  96. Stolterman, E. (2016). Herbert Marcuse and the “One-dimensional man”. In J. Bardzell, S. Bardzell, & M. Blythe (Eds.), Critical Theory and Interaction Design. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  97. Sunderland, M. E., Ahn, J., Carson, C., & Kastenberg, W. (2013). Making ethics explicit: Relocating ethics to the core of engineering education. Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education Conference (pp. 23–26). Washington: ASEE.Google Scholar
  98. Toombs, A. L., Bardzell, S., & Bardzell, J. (2015). The proper care and feeding of hackerspaces: Care ethics and cultures of making. Proceedings of the 33rd annual ACM conference on human factors in computing systems (pp. 629–638). New York: ACM Press.Google Scholar
  99. Tracey, M. W., & Unger, K. L. (2010). Cross cultural instruction: An instructional design case. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 1(1).Google Scholar
  100. Tronto, J. C. (1993). Moral boundaries: A political argument for an ethic of care. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  101. Verbeek, P.-P. (2006). Materializing morality: Design ethics and technological mediation. Science, Technology and Human Values, 31(3), 361–380. doi: 10.1177/0162243905285847.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. Warschauer, M., & Ames, M. (2010). Can one laptop per child save the world’s poor? Journal of International Affairs, 64(1), 33–51.Google Scholar
  103. Winner, L. (1980). Do artifacts have politics? Daedalus, 109(1), 121–136.Google Scholar
  104. Yanchar, S. C., & Gabbitas, B. W. (2011). Between eclecticism and orthodoxy in instructional design. Educational Technology Research and Development, 59(3), 383–398. doi: 10.1007/s11423-010-9180-3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  105. Yamagata-Lynch, L. C., & Luetkehans, L. M. (2014). Longitudinal design case of a university preservice technology integration curriculum shaped by its sociopolitical context. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 5(1), 25–42.Google Scholar
  106. Yeaman, A. R. J. (2004). Professional ethics: The misuse of technology. TechTrends, 48(5), 16–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  107. Yeaman, A. R. J., Koetting, J. R., & Nichols, R. G. (1994). Critical theory, cultural analysis and the ethics of educational technology as social responsibility. Educational Technology, 34(2), 5–13.Google Scholar
  108. Young, P. A. (2008). Integrating culture in the design of ICTs. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(1), 6–17.Google Scholar
  109. Young, P. A. (2014). Disclosing the design of an african american educational technology: Bridge: A cross culture reading program. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 5(2), 34–55.Google Scholar
  110. Young, I. (2015). Practical empathy: For collaboration and creativity in your work. New York: Rosenfeld Media.Google Scholar
  111. Yusop, F. D., & Correia, A. (2013). On becoming a civic-minded instructional designer: An ethnographic study of an instructional design experience. British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(5), 782–792.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Purdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Indiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations