Action Research in Planning Education

– Experiences from Problem-oriented Project Work at Roskilde University

  • Martin Severin Frandsen Roskilde University
  • John Andersen Roskilde University


This article presents experiences and reflections from two cases of problem-oriented project work working with action research in bottom-up urban planning and sustainable transition in Copenhagen. The first case concerns the involvement of local residents in the redesign of a public square through a series of aesthetic experiments. The second case concerns an experiment with alternative transport solutions and sustainable street transition through reduction of private car use and the creation of new public spaces on former parking lots. The article concludes that action research seems to be a promising way of involving students in processes of planning and sustainable urban transition. Seen from the perspective of external stakeholders, the students can make valuable contributions to the exploration of the potentials of places and the possible futures of communities, and they can assist in providing a knowledge base for planned experiments and initiatives. Seen from the perspective of the students, doing action research strengthens their understanding of “the logic of practice” and their ability to master practical and ethical judgments in complex real-world empowerment and learning processes.